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Robots for law enforcement in India

Arjun Rao - Hyderabad Public School


Technology has been used in the fields of finance, education and countless others to increase the efficiency of those systems. In order for the government to effectively administrate they will also have to adopt such technologies. We have seen this in some government services like the RTA which was one of the first Government agencies to use smart cards, online registration portals etc. which have increased the efficiency of those systems. Given that we have the technology and the great need, law enforcement must also start making use of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies.

While this is a concept which has been discussed and debated for very long it hasn’t been used to its full potential yet. In the developed world, countries like The United States have used robots and drones for law enforcement to some extent. Even India currently has 1074 jurisdictions with some modern technological equipment. The law enforcement in the United States has used robots for three main purposes; Road checks, capturing suspected criminals and finally for deactivating explosive materiel. Robots have assisted law enforcement in the capturing of a suspect in the Boston marathon bombing. Apart from conventional robots. AI enabled Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) such as drones have also been used for surveillance. India currently does have one law enforcement robot which has been used on an experimental basis in Telangana but in the absence of a framework and policy on the use of robots for Law Enforcement, there is not much traction on the subject. It is imperative that with the evolution of technology, governments can and will acquire more such hardware.

This paper attempts to lay down the broad policy and roadmap for introduction of Robots for enhancing Law Enforcement in India.

Scope: The paper will examine the following:

(a) Need for law enforcement robots.

(b) Framework required for law enforcement robots to be used.

(c) Commission and usage of robots.

(d) Examples of Law enforcement robots can and are being used.

(e) Implementation of robots for law enforcement.

1. Need for law enforcement robots:

1.1 Casualty Reduction The most obvious requirement for using robots in Law Enforcement Operations (LEO) is casualty reduction by adding a layer of dispensable hardware between the police officers and offenders. As per available records, 450 Indian police officers died on duty between 2016 and 2019. While human intervention in specialized operations will continue in the foreseeable future, routine police operations can rely on robots thus reducing casualty figures and thereby saving intangible costs of the Govt. The same has been verified by the CEO of endeavor robotics who said that “by adding space and time between the operator robots are an element which can potentially reduce casualties”. It stands to logic that if most of the frontline is composed of robots, casualties will automatically reduce.

1.2 Cost Reduction

Most opponents of using robots in LEO point out to the high costs of procurement and maintenance. This is not a justifiable stand. While it is agreed that replacing manpower with robots will have high Capital or acquisition costs, it will definitely reduce costs in the long run as recurring costs on salaries, benefits and pensions reduce. Even today, the proportion of budgetary spends on salaries outweigh operational costs as shown in the example below.

In 2020, Delhi police’s budget was 8644 crores out of that 8100 crores, was spent on salaries and pensions. Use of robots in law enforcement will definitely not replace humans on the force but will surely reduce them. In the long term this will reduce costs.

1.3. Reduction in cases of violence against Police/ Police brutality

People are more dangerous when they are scared. A police officer provokes a feeling of fear in people. When a person is not scared there would be no reason to harm a person. A police officer not being physically present with a person will also lead to a decrease in police violence.

1.4. Decrease in Corruption in the department

The Indian police ranks 80 out of 180 on the corruption index. It is a system prone to bribery and kleptocracy. Using AI in such system will allow for full transparency as verified by IBM. So, adoption of technology in law enforcement will reduce corruption.

1.5. Increased Efficiency of law enforcement

Robots have thermal imaging technology, facial recognition software etc. which increase their efficiency. They make use of such software and will be able to catch people committing a crime more easily. This system has worked in China where nearly 5000 people were caught by the facial recognition software on the CCTV’s of the country.

2. Framework required for law enforcement robots to be used