Oxnard — The Community Services, Public Safety and Housing Committee on Tuesday, June 14, approved the donation of a Vantage patrol robot to the Oxnard Police Department.
Special Operations Commander Tim Kelley presented the item and said the donor, Thahn Doan, is a California businessman who believes technology can offer officials and community members more security when dealing with incidents involving the emotionally disturbed, natural disasters, incidents involving hazardous materials, and Incidents involving armed and violent suspects.
“Transcend Robotics Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Phil Walker, contacted the Oxnard Police Department a few months ago regarding a private donor who wished to donate one of his robots to the Oxnard Police Department,” Kelley said. “Mr. Doan learned that Transcend Robotics is making a small robot that will enable officers to deal with the mentally and emotionally disturbed individuals, as well as armed and violent suspects and other dangerous incidents from a safe distance. Mr. Doan purchased 30 Transcend Robotics Vantage Patrol Robots and donated them to various law enforcement agencies across the state.”
He said the Santa Maria Police Department, Santa Barbara Police Department, Fresno County Police Department and Oxnard were some of the agencies selected.
“It gives officers the ability to use both time and distance to de-escalate potentially violent and dangerous situations,” he said. “The Vantage Robot is a small, battery-powered vehicle that is remotely controlled. It’s camera-equipped, has a two-way audio communication system and is portable enough to fit in the trunk of a squad car.”
He said if the department bought the robot, it would cost $33,000.
“The robot is defined as military equipment under Assembly Bill 481 and will be placed on the Oxnard Police Department’s Military Equipment List,” Kelley said. “This robot allows officers to visually inspect dangerous environments using its video cameras and allows officers to communicate with potentially violent individuals from a safe distance.”
He said the list of intended uses includes high-risk tactical situations involving barricaded subjects and hostage situations. It can also be used during hazmat events and the inspection of possible explosive devices and other inherently dangerous situations for officers.
“The Oxnard Police Department policy manual, as well as existing search and seizure laws, will govern the use of this equipment,” he said. “Barring urgent circumstances, a search warrant must be obtained prior to use in a private residence.”
He said the robot also climbs stairs.
“This robot is used by various law enforcement agencies across the country and state, including larger agencies like the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,” he said.
The measure does not affect the general fund.
The committee’s mayor, Pro Tem Bryan MacDonald, said he didn’t know much about the person who donated the robot, noting that he spent nearly $1 million on 30 robots.
“Speaking to Chief Benites this afternoon he told me the gentleman has been here for many years, is a successful businessman and has real estate investments,” he said. “When he first came here from Vietnam, it seems he was homeless for some time and got to know the local police departments where he lived. As such, he really has a strong belief in the police departments. He bought 30 of them; I believe he donates to various organizations across the state. In my conversation with Chief Benites he said the seller is a DOD (Department of Defense) seller along with other government agencies they haven’t really done a thorough job but they have checked the lord to make sure there are any no hidden intentions or unusual things.”
Committee member Mayor John Zaragoza said the public needs to know that although it is being considered under Bill 481 and Military Equipment, the city will use the robot to de-escalate things that are really difficult.
“The robot can go out and check and robotically report to de-escalate any possible violent incident that might happen or harm our officers,” he said. “I like that and I think it’s extremely important.”
He likes that the device is portable and can be carried in the trunk of a police vehicle.
“It’s not that difficult and I think it will really help us,” he said. “I think the most important thing for me is that it can potentially save a police officer from harm, which I think is extremely important.”
Kelley said the robot is impressive.
“Technology has come a long way,” he said.
The point was accepted unanimously and submitted to the full Council.