New SWAT robot in Medina Co. could save lives

Posted at 5:02 PM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 19:07:15-05

A 65-pound SWAT robot could soon become the first line of defense for officers handling hostage or standoff situations throughout Medina County.

"It can improve the safety of the officers, put them at less risk at scenes where it might be used," said Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller.

The robot, which arrived at the the sheriff's department on Thursday, was donated through a grant by the Westfield Insurance Foundation.

Sgt. James Sanford said the sheriff's department will become the first law enforcement agency in Northeast Ohio to use the specialized robot made by ICOR Technology. It will be shared with all 14 police departments within the county as needed.

The sheriff's departments in Franklin and Butler counties, along with the Cincinnati Fire Department, use the same type of robots.

The SWAT robot is equipped with four cameras, a robotic claw arm and a microphone to allow for two-way communication with a potential barricaded suspect. It can also be switched to climbing mode to go up or down stairs.

"We can talk back and forth to him, see what his demands are. If we have to put one of our negotiators on the mic, we can do it," Sanford said.

The robot can provide crucial clues by entering a home and providing surveillance of victims or the suspect, while transmitting video to a command center. It can also pick up possible evidence, including any weapons found inside the home.

Sanford gave a demonstration on Friday by maneuvering the robot towards a deputy--pretending to be a sleeping suspect-- and then snatching a gun from his hand.

Miller acknowledged the robot may only be used a few times a year, but he believed it's a tool worth using especially since taxpayer money was not used to pay for the device valued at nearly $50,000.

"I would guess the first time that it's used, it's paid for itself," Miller said.

The Westfield Insurance Foundation decided to donate the robot because it will help officers respond more safely with lives at stake.

"Westfield Insurance Foundation wants to help protect people and property by identifying and investing in safer businesses and communities," said Jani Groza, the foundation's executive director.