How does Richmond County use its bomb squad mobile robot?

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — You may have already seen the headlines San Francisco votes to allow police to use killer robots there.

Their Police Board of Supervisors passed a new policy allowing them to use the same robots that can remotely detonate a bomb to use deadly force on a suspect in a standoff or similar when all else fails.

What you probably didn’t know is that Richmond County has the same technology and the ability to kill a suspect with sheriff’s approval when it comes to it. We spoke to the bomb squad leader to find out how they use these robots here in Augusta.

The robots are wireless, run without batteries and are operated by an officer within the bomb squad. Each robot costs around $250,000 and is funded by Homeland Security, and Richmond County has two.

Meet Wilson and Steve. Armed with multiple cameras, lasers, pincers to move things, and wheels for all types of terrain, these two disposable EOD, or explosives, robots have protected many lives since they first joined the force in 2005.

Its main use over the years has been to dispose of suspicious packages.

“We have it as a bomb squad for any kind of suspicious packages or something. But they can be used in a swat situation. And as for any kind of surveillance, you could use it for communication as well. When you’re trying to get close enough to attack a suspect,” said Corporal Bruce Williams, commander of Bomb Squad.

But the involvement of a suspect is what’s bringing this decades-old technology to the national headlines.

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“As far as taking it and using it against a person, that would fall into a different category and go from there,” he said.

A category so rare that the bomb squad has only tried it once in 17 years.

“We’ve only loaded it once in my career. Or since we put it in a deadly situation. We never got the subject because he was in an attic. We never caught him with the robot. But it was armed to go deadly. He actually shot us,” Williams said.

He says while their robots can be deadly, that falls under extreme circumstances that would have to be authorized by Sheriff Richard Roundtree himself.

We asked to see the police…

“We haven’t talked about it yet. Something we need to sit down and take a long look at. We didn’t really write a policy about it either. Of course, that would have to come from the sheriff if he allowed us to take that option.”

The only guideline as to when and how the deadly force robots may be used is with Sheriff’s approval. They have two separate deadly force attachments. One of them has a laser, and the two cylinders can fire explosives.

They asked us to turn off the camera to see the other. It looks more like a large gun attached to the robot.