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Front Line Warriors

There have been two police standoffs in Tallahassee this week and robots were on the front lines during both of them. The remote control robots once reserved for bomb diffusion are now becoming standard equipment in crisis.

Monday a man kept police at bay for nearly three hours and it was a robot, outfitted with a remote control camera that finally spotted the suspect inside, asleep.

LT Mark Wheeler with TPD says, "We couldn't tell if he was faking or not, and there was no weapon that we could see, so the entry team slipped in through the front door."

Thursday a call about an armed man shut down an eastside neighborhood. A robot was ultimately sent inside only to discover the man dead at his own hands.

Stewart Clendinen, TPD Spokesman, says, "No officer was in jeopardy so this is a good day for law enforcement technology and a very sad day for the people of Tallahassee to lose one of its residents."

TPD, LCSO and Capitol Police all have specially designed robots, which are increasingly being used during standoffs. The robots are outfitted with cameras and microphones serving as a first set of eyes and ears before officers are sent in to risk their lives.

SGT Bruce Gaines with the LCSO SWAT Team says, "It can take out doors, it takes out windows, any devices that we need to deliver to the hostage taker like phones or food. We don't have to risk personal safety so it makes it 100 times safer."

Bruce Gaines has been on the SWAT team for 12 years, and Audie Rowell on the TAC team for 10. They say robots like this are not "stealing their thunder", only making their strike more efficient and less deadly.

The robots cost a quarter million dollars or more a piece and each department has a different type so they can share depending on the nature of the standoff.


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