Proceeds of crime to pay for Winnipeg police robot, training to help officers communicate with protesters

The Winnipeg Police Service is spending roughly a quarter of a million dollars — all from the proceeds of crime — on a new state-of-the-art robot capable of going into dangerous situations.

The service announced Wednesday it is getting just over $611,000 through the province’s criminal property forfeiture program, which seizes and liquidates criminal assets, and putting it toward a number of new police and community initiatives.

“It’s a good way of taking criminal assets and reallocating them out into the community,” Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said at a news conference.

Of that money, just over $257,000 will go toward a public-safety robot. Smyth says the police service has used a robot in certain dangerous situations for years, but never one that can move on rough terrain or go up stairs.

The robot the service plans to purchase — a dog lookalike from Boston Dynamics called Spot — will also be able to take photos and carry items on a harness.

“It really is next-generation, an upgrade if you will, that provides our people with a great deal more mobility and being able to go into spaces that would be dangerous to a live canine or to one of our officers,” Smyth said.

Just over $36,000 in the funding will go toward new training to help officers liaise with organizers of protests.

The training was developed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Smyth says, and helps officers learn “how to identify and meet with organizers and really set the tone so everyone can do their thing peacefully.”

He says the training helps police identify organizers and communicate effectively with them.

In addition, roughly $33,000 will go to the Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) program through Kidthink, a mental health centre that works to provide services for children and their families.

That program works with elementary school-age children with behavioural issues and their caregivers, to help the children learn to stop and think before they act and make better choices in the moment, Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said at the press conference.

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