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The NYPD used a robotic dog like this one from Boston Dynamics. Photo: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty Images

The New York Police Department terminated its contract for a robotic dog after residents complained.

Why it matters: Robots and drones are becoming a bigger part of policing, but their presence makes some people feel uncomfortable, as they've come to symbolize the growing militarization of the police.

Driving the news: The NYPD revealed this week that it had ended a $94,000 contract with the robotics company Boston Dynamics for a four-legged robot that officers named "Digidog."

  • Digidog had been acquired by the NYPD last August, and it had been employed in the field a few times since then, including one instance when it was used to scout a hostage situation in the Bronx before officers entered the building.
  • Digidog, which is agile enough to climb stairs — a feat even the murderous Dalek robots in "Doctor Who" long struggled to manage — was meant to be used in situations deemed too dangerous for human officers.

The catch: Its presence at a hostage situation at a public housing building in Manhattan caused a fierce backlash among residents and politicians who saw it as alienating and a waste of taxpayer money.

Background: Police have used robots for decades to respond to hazardous situations, but concerns about the technology spiked after the Dallas police killed a mass shooter in 2016 by blowing up a bomb-squad robot.

On the one hand: Given that police who are under threat — whether real or imagined — are more likely to respond with violence, the possible increased use of unarmed robots might make both officers and the people they are meant to serve safer.

On the other: Taking human officers out of the equation will do little to improve deteriorating relations with the public.

Go deeper: Des Moines metro police using controversial facial recognition tool

Go deeper

Congress to award Congressional Gold Medals to officers who protected Capitol

Photo: DEA/M. Borchi/Contributor via Getty Images

The Senate passed a bill via unanimous consent on Tuesday to award four Congressional Gold Medals to the Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers who responded to the Jan. 6 riot.

Details: Medals will be awarded to the Capitol Police and to the D.C. Metropolitan Police. Another medal will be displayed at the Smithsonian to honor the officers who responded to the riot, and a fourth will be put on display in the Capitol building.

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.