Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department or Program

Criminology and Criminal Justice


Schafer, Joseph



As with all new technologies, autonomous robots bring with them a bevy of new legal and ethical issues. In no place is this more evident than in the law enforcement industry. This paper will examine the manner in which the next generation of autonomous robots will likely be put to use by police and other law enforcement personnel—from reconnaissance to explosive ordinance disposal (EOD)—and examine the legal and ethical controversies that they may bring with them. It will do so by delving into the current use of robots in policing and considering the challenges they have brought to date. Then, by examining of new technology that is being developed over the world, specifically in the field of autonomy, this paper will posit how such robots might be used in the future and what disputes they may introduce to the law enforcement world. Will humans ever be removed from the decision-making process? What happens when you take the human controller out of the equation? Will they, perhaps, be allowed to gather evidence at a crime scene and if so, how will the evidence gathered under the sole direction of the robot be processed and accepted in court? Who is at fault if something goes wrong? How will police in the field avoid this legal and moral minefield that autonomous robots will drag along with them when they arrive? By examining the past and current use of this generation of robots within the law-enforcement community and combining it with the technological advantages autonomous robots will be bringing to the table, we might begin to answer these questions.