The Columbus Police Department introduced one of its newest team members to the City Council this week.
CPD Capt. Doug Molczyk and Community Service Technician Bobby Pensick showed off the Avatar III tactical robot to Council during its regular meeting on May 1st, 2023.
Pensick used a controller to have the robot roll up to the council, noting how its many features include climbing stairs and opening doors.
“The robot can be used to go into places that would be hazardous to human life,” Molczyk later said, noting CPD has previously used Nebraska State Patrol robots in standoff situations.
Mayor Jim Bulkley asked how many opportunities there were in the last 24 months in which CPD could have utilized the robot. Molczyk said there would have been two, though stressed he was happy to report there have been zero cases in which it was needed since the department got it.
The captain added the robot is meant to be a tool to utilize alongside other assets.
“The goal is to utilize the robot, drone and our K-9 to eliminate the need for sending officers into situations where their lives could be put in jeopardy,” Molczyk said the day after the meeting, reflecting on a point he made to Council. “We can assess the situation utilizing the drone and the robot and make a better plan.”
The Council and City Administrator Tara Vasicek appeared to be pleased, with the latter noting she felt the robot will be another great benefit for CPD.
“All tools that can keep officers safe,” she said.
The robot demonstration was a full-circle moment in that Molczyk first applied for a Nebraska Crime Commission grant in October 2021 with approval from Vasicek and Bulkley. During a May 2022 regular City Council meeting, councilors approved accepting the $65,720 grant to cover the cost of the robot. The robot was initially paid for out of the City's general fund until the reimbursement arrived from the crime commission.
Pensick said he and a couple of officers have been training to be able to properly use the robot.
“Very neat. Thank you,” Bulkley said. “Keep up the great work.”
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley, left, City Administrator Tara Vasicek and the Columbus City Council watch as Community Service Technician Bobby Pensick shows off the Avatar III tactical robot that the Columbus Police Department recently acquired during the City Council's May 1st, 2023, meeting in the Columbus City Council Chambers.)