Area sheriff hopes new tactical tool sends message about protecting police

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CORSICANA, Texas (KWTX) The Navarro County Sheriff's Office has added a new, high-tech piece of equipment to its force to help protect the public - and the people who protect them.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

The tactical surveillance robot arrived at NCSO headquarters in Corsicana Tuesday.

"We'll be able to use the robot in surveillance situations rather than put an officer in harms way," said Sheriff Elmer Tanner.

Now in his second term as Sheriff, Tanner says it's one of the most useful (and exciting) pieces of equipment he's seen in the almost 31 years he's worked for the agency.

"There's so many aspects of this robot that are going to be a plus for us and beneficial to us," said Tanner. "It has the capability of moving furniture, we have the ability to open doors, it certainly has the capability of delivering water, food staples, cell phones...so many different things to use that robot in place of an actual human being."

From searching for suspects to going into collapsed buildings and hazmat situations, while its mission will primarily be surveillance, Tanner says the roles the robot could potentially play are endless; it comes equipped with four cameras, night vision, speakers, audio and visual recording capabilities, a flashlight, a laser, and more.

"I think we're going to call it 'the bulldog,'" said Tanner.

Made by SuperDroid Robots, the approximately $40,000 piece of equipment was paid for by donations, with large contributions coming from the Navarro Community Foundation and Navarro County 100 Club.

"The thing that makes this so special is, not only did we realize that we had a need for it, but we were able to purchase this 100 percent through donations," said Tanner. "We want to give a great big 'shout out' to them for making our dream come true."

The Sheriff says having "technology at your fingertips" like this saves the time and cost of having to call-in another agency's resources on certain high-risk calls.

"In these situations, time is not always on your side, and the quicker you can resolve an issue, the better you are," said Tanner. "It's wonderful to have that asset available that you can immediately deploy rather than having to make a request and wait to get that asset here."

Deputies thought they were going to have to deploy the robot Thursday during a suicidal call involving a man with weapons inside his home, however, Tanner said the situation was diffused before it was needed.

In a world where police officer deaths are on the rise, the Sheriff says officer safety is a top priority, and having a good grasp on technology is investing in a safer future for law enforcement.

"It's about protecting those officers and allowing them the opportunity to resolve these issues and do the job that we ask them to do," said Tanner.

So far in 2019, at least five U.S. police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty, and according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund the number of police officers shot and killed nationwide last year jumped to 52 from 46 in 2017.

"There's going to be a time when people are going to start to question whether or not this is a profession they want to e a part of, and so if we don't get to the mentality of 'we've got to do what we can to protect those who protect us,' then we're going to have a problem," said Tanner.

NCSO currently has a staff of 135 in charge of protecting a county of close to 50,000.