The James Valley Special Operations Team is looking to add a new robotic recruit to the force, according to Scott Edinger, chief of the Jamestown Police Department.
The Special Operations Team, made up of officers from the JPD, Stutsman County Sheriff's Office, Barnes County Sheriff's Office and Valley City Police Department, is considering adding a "Recon Robotics Throwbot 2" to the team.
"The new one is throwable and about the size of a 2-pound dumbbell," he said. "One possible use is to throw it through a window and let it roam around."
The robot can be controlled by officers up to 450 feet away from the robot. Those officers can monitor an audio and video feed from the robot to conduct searches of an area.
"Sometimes we want to stay back and not prompt a confrontation," Edinger said. "In situations where the suspect may attempt a 'suicide by cop' (forcing a confrontation where an officer would shoot the suspect) it allows us to stay back and not force that behavior."
Situations that require the use of a robot vary.
"We can go a few years without using one, then use it three of four times in a year," Edinger said. "We train with it all the time because we never know when it will be necessary."
Edinger said the Special Operations Team will keep its old robot. The 10-year-old Robotex model is larger, can climb some stairs and has an arm that can grasp items like doorknobs or latches while the new Throwbot is smaller, quieter and easier to operate.
"They all have their strengths and weaknesses," he said. "Something like the new one we'd use more than the old one."
The local departments have access to larger robots with bomb handling capabilities from other departments in the state if necessary.
The cost of the new robot is $16,600 and will be split between the departments of the Special Operations Team although the details of that funding have not been finalized, according to Lt. Sid Mann, an officer of the team from the Jamestown Police Department.
The costs also might be partially covered by the proceeds of the Police Appreciation Night sponsored by the University of Jamestown and planned for its Feb. 14 hockey game between the University of Jamestown and the University of Mary.
"Anything that offsets the cost is good," Mann said. "Silent auction on jerseys, commemorative pucks and things like that."
Edinger said robots are not always useful but can save a life in some situations.
"They have some limitations," he said, "but they give us an opportunity to not have to confront someone and take that risk."