Dallas – Civil Law Enforcement Use Of Vehicle Based IED Raises Questions

Last nights shooting and killing of several policemen in Dallas, Texas is still somewhat mysterious. At one point the Dallas police chief asserted that four attackers were working together with rifles and triangulating themselves in positions for the attack. Two of them were reported as snipers on roof. This led me to estimate that this was probably some team-trained (supremacist) militia trying to instigate a civil war.

Current status is that one man alone was responsible. An army veteran who was, according to this video, trained in infantry combat. Three other persons are in custody but possibly not related to the incident.

What explain the far diverging situation reports by the Dallas Chief?

The single identified shooter was eventually trapped and the police negotiated with him. Negotiations broke off, according to the police, and the police used a remote controlled “robot” to deliver a bomb next to the trapped shooter where it was then exploded. The suspect was killed by the explosion.

This is the very first known use of a remote controlled vehicle based improvised explosive device, or RC-VBIED in military speak, by a civil police force. The vehicle was a remote controlled device on rubber tracks as they are often used to examine and explode suspicious packages.

The suspected shooter had been surrounded and trapped for some time.

  • Was the suspect still an imminent danger?
  • Was it justified to use such kind of “drone strike” against him?
  • What if criminals resort to similar devices (relatively easy to build from RC toys)?
  • Was the remote connection to the “robot” secure or was it open to manipulations?
  • What are potential consequences when such remote killing machines will be used (as has now become likely) in everyday standoffs between police and this or that suspected criminal?
  • The use of drones in warfare has led to an increase in targeted strikes -in and outside of warzones- as the risk to own forces was reduced. Will police use of VBIEDs have similar effects?
  • Should the use of such means require a warrant?

The use of such a “robot” is a qualitative step into a future no one was eager to see in the streets of our cities. We should think hard and ask difficult questions before accepting it.

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