Home NEWS Local Scene Semi-Great Expectations; Weaponized Bots; And Ring Camera Cops

Semi-Great Expectations; Weaponized Bots; And Ring Camera Cops

"The Kid" - pounding out the words.

Something’s afoot. There’s an unsettled tension in the air. Trust us, we’re good at sussing out these things.

Being inquisitive types by nature we started asking around, getting answers we expected and some we did not: Midterms, Ukraine, Slick Saudi oil deals, rising costs and lowered expectations – political gymnastics surpassing even the wildest conceivable parody.

And being realists we tried to come up with some form of game plan if the wheels come off the bus and the whole show goes spinning off into a ditch. Our plan: Step up construction of Rancho Cataclysmo, our off-grid escape shelter in the woods.

We’ll refrain from projecting our scenario for the day after America’s trip to its polling stations, largely because many of you have said they don’t want to hear it. That’s where we are – Americans just want to get on with things. Many we talked with were open about their sentiments and leanings, so much so in fact that we thought we had a handle on which way the 24/680 and, by extension, the nation attached to it, would swing. But noooo, then the bots went to work, virtually guaranteeing outcomes and tears from their opponents – and projecting that the (insert political party here) would be “crushed,” “gutted” and “utterly destroyed” on Nov. 9.

So it boils down to “we’ll have to wait and see,” and that sense of expectation we talked about. We’re left with the words of Jason Robards channeling Ben Bradlee in All The President’s Men echoing in our little heads: “Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, First Amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys f— up again, I’m going to get mad. Good night.”

Yeah. All that.

Many readers continue to express alarm over recent crime trends, sending us tips and photos of shenanigans in their neighborhoods (thanks!) that we’re sometimes able to make sense of. You have to remember that the police are busy and feel no urgent need to cue us in about what they’re up to so it is often hard to put a comprehensive story together. The general civilian consensus seems to be: “we’re being probed,” with folks of unscrupulous reputation cruising our neighborhoods and business parks in all manner of suburban reconnaissance vehicles and we’d have to say that sounds about right.

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The police, for their part, are still out there corralling transgressors – increasingly turning to science and technology to counter the effects of their depleted ranks and a more brazen criminal element. We’re seeing more use of drone technology, small interior flyers and larger aerial assets equipped with previously unthinkable surveillance gear, along with Flash Gordon sticky trackers used to lower the danger levels of high-speed pursuits.

Sometimes this next generation of law enforcement gear works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s clear police are looking for new ways to multiply their effectiveness in the field without – perish the thought – losing officers or the occasional innocent civilian.

We’ve been waiting for the next discussion of next-gen law enforcement hardware to surface and it didn’t take long before an extrapolation we expected surfaced in Oakland – where talk of weaponizing robots recently made headlines.

Unthinkable just a few years ago, the idea gained plausibility after a high-profile incident in Dallas in 2016 and more recent use of drone technology to drop $40 grenades onto multi-million dollar Russian tanks with great effect in Ukraine.

Obviously, law enforcement would want to investigate ways to take out a well-armed, entrenched suspect with clear fields of fire and a proven animosity towards police (the Dallas incident ended when a robot placed a brick of C4 at the feet of a gunman who had murdered five officers earlier in the night – then detonated it) without exposing other officers to further harm. But giving voice to the idea has caused quite a stir in Oakland, where talk of arming a robot with a shotgun round for possible use against a barricaded suspect raised eyebrows.

The robot model used that night in Dallas was a Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros Mark 5-A1 and OPD had evinced an interest in acquiring the same type, equipping it to unleash pepper spray against a dug-in suspect but suggesting the model could also be modified with “percussion actuated nonelectric disruptors,” (PANs) – ostensibly so it could be rolled into a gunman’s lair to unleash a variety of ordnance, including a shotgun round.

Any plans for a lethal law enforcement robot were dashed today (Wednesday), however, after OPD announced it “is not adding armed remote vehicles to the department” in a statement posted to their Facebook page.

“OPD did take part in ad hoc committee discussions with the Oakland Police Commission and community members to explore all possible uses for the vehicle,” the post goes on to say. “However, after further discussions with the Chief and Executive Team, the department decided it no longer wanted to explore that particular option.”


  1. Yesterday I turned on PBS’s DemocracyNow in the middle of the show, and an author was discussing his book and a battle between democracy and authoritarian fascism. I kept trying to get the clues as to what country he was discussing and thinking maybe Iran, but it turns out they were discussing the US! Wow. A bit over the top I think. I cannot recall any presidential election that was not theatrically presented as a defining moment of what will happen to America forever. Now even the midterm elections have made the jump to this theater.

    • Yeh – theatrics. All those stunt people bashing their way into the capitol building. CGI just keeps getting better and better.

      • The Capitol is a stupid building. Bricks, wood, plaster and such. Been there. It is not the United States. It is a building. If you want impressive, go visit the Vatican. A bunch of middle-aged guys with flags are not going to overthrow the US government by breaking into a building. The US is a lot stronger than you think if you are pinning your beliefs on a pile of bricks. If you enjoy the media circus about Jan 6 that’s fine. Years ago I got hooked on the TV series Dallas.

        • Comparing a violent attack on the nation’s capitol and continuing effort to overthrow a legitimately elected government to theater and a TV series does a lot for ones credibility. I know what I saw and I know how I’m voting (voted). Looking forward to seeing how many of my fellow Americans feel like you and how many feel like me.

          • Great idea. Let’s talk credibility. My spouse fled from a revolution in an African country ahead of the killings and people getting hacked up with machetes. I tried to provide some details about that a year or so ago here but the details were too grisly to post so it got censored. At least that is my guess. So yes, I think I know a thing or two about what is or is not a coup. Those guys in the real coup were not armed with flags. Your turn.

          • America is a huge geographic area, an idea, a set of laws, and a culture. It is not a building. America at no time was in danger of a coup from a group of idiots who broke into a building.

  2. Man, by the time the nonelectric disruptors start flying it’s too late to look for cover. Arm the photon torpedoes.

  3. @Lamorinda Vote —
    Maybe we should just focus on America and whats happening here now rather than the horrific events in Rwanda in… 1994? I’m not sure if that’s the coup you refer to but the tribal violence that followed was terrible and I’m glad your spouse made it out. I believe the world powers should have done more to stop that genocide. Also sorry you felt censored although this site does belong to others and it is their decision to make.

    I’ll agree the Vatican is a fine structure but I totally disagree with your assessment of the capitol building as I happen to be American and it means more to me than “a pile of bricks.” Perhaps your spouse, who found shelter here after the genocide if that is the coup your referring to, feels differently about the country and its capitol. I don’t know.

    I also feel you are being dismissive when describing the participants in our coup attempt as they were not particpants in a patriotic parade but rather a howling mob intent on doing harm to the leaders of this country. I saw that with my own eyes and I’m amazed whenever I hear other Americans describe it otherwise. I’m convinced there’s some sort of mass delusion in effect. I’m sure I won’t be able to convince you of what we all saw happen January 6 but we’re way past that now. As the author of this story says — we’ll see what the people want on November 9th.


    • Linsey: I absolutely agree with you about the howling mob thing. It was a collection of idiots acting like complete idiots. We will have to agree to disagree on whether they actually were any kind of a threat to anything. There is one interesting thing about my relatives. One married older couple of which one of them also fled Africa at the time, have talked and said that things have gotten so bad here that if they were younger, they would be thinking about moving to another country. They lean Democrat, although that is not my point. No matter what party you want to blame for things here, we should all be deeply embarrassed that people who fled a war to find shelter here think things are getting so bad here that they feel like leaving.

        • Mr. Adams: What I would need to see to convince me there was a coup? A few clues might include martial law, armed military controlling government offices, tanks stopping traffic at major intersections, killings and/or arrests of opposition political leaders, government control of the media with announcements about suspension of civil rights, fighter jets overhead to intimidate those against the coup, and so on.

  4. One of the 2 main political parties has literally abandoned any written platform delineating what it stands for. Well, that’s different. “What He says” is now the de facto platform. The “What He says” platform is antidemocratic and un-American.

    No kings.

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