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.
WATCHING THE DETECTIVES
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.
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.”