A new robot purchased through a community fund will give the Tri-City Regional SWAT team a much needed resource and could help save lives, officials say.
The SWAT team unveiled the $57,000 robot Thursday at the Kennewick Police Department, providing onlookers with a demonstration of the machine's new features.
The new robot has infrared capabilities, 360-degree high resolution cameras, a claw to open doors and the ability to relay real-time updates to the command post. The robot also will be able to work with the Richland Bomb Squad robot to provide law enforcement with another set of eyes.
"Information saves lives," said Mike Cobb, SWAT team incident commander. "This piece of equipment is going to provide an overwhelming amount of information."
The robot also is light enough to be stored in a backpack and nimble enough to go up stairs, Cobb said.
"It gets into spaces our other equipment just can't," he said.
The SWAT team -- which is composed of members of the Kennewick, Pasco and Richland police departments, as well as members of the Benton County Sheriff's Office -- was able to buy the robot using money donated by the Community Enrichment Foundation.
The foundation sponsors various projects in the Tri-Cities and is funded by HAPO Community Credit Union and Windermere Real Estate/Tri-Cities.
"This costs the city absolutely nothing," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.
SWAT team member Jeremy Taylor, who will be one the members controlling the robot, said the new features will allow for him to better scan the inside of rooms and navigate tighter spaces.
Having the option to put the robot inside a room first will help keep team members safe and end tense situations peacefully, Taylor said.
"Some of the teams that have already gotten the robot have had individuals surrender by just seeing the robot inside their house," he said. "That is always a better option than us going inside and having a different type of outcome."
The robot is ready to be used the next time the team is called out and SWAT members already have started to train with it, Cobb said.
-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson