Mark Taylor
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The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has a new robot that can be used to assess armed standoff situations and potentially save lives.
Capt. Shane Pennington recently demonstrated the robot for the Edgerton City Council.

Capt. Shane Pennington, of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, demonstrates one of the department’s robots during an Edgerton City Council meeting. The robot is equipt with a camera and is able to climb stairs. It is used by officers in stand-off situations. Staff photos by Mark Taylor

The robot is operated by a remote control and has two cameras that deliver video to a monitor on the remote control.
It allows officers to see what is going on inside a house or building without putting officers in harm’s way.
“We don’t know the environment we are going into (during standoff situations),” Pennington said. “I would rather that they shoot the robot than one of my guys.”
Pennington, who is commander of the sheriff’s SWAT team, said officers used an older robot during a standoff in Overland Park a couple of years ago.
During that situation, a man barricaded himself inside a house and threatened to kill any officer who entered.
“The robot found him at the top of the stairs with a gun in his hand,” Pennington said. “We took a picture of the monitor. That bodes well for us in court.”
The suspect was eventually evacuated with tear gas.
The new robot has two cameras that are able to pan and tilt, and allows officers to view the inside of a house from any angle.
The images are delivered to a color monitor on the remote control.
Infrared allows the camera to work in complete darkness.
The robot also has the ability to climb stairs.

Staff photos by Mark Taylor

“It is really handy, and it is going to save lives,” Pennington said.
He added that the $17,000 robot was acquired at no cost to taxpayers.
It was purchased with funds from the sheriff’s office’s forfeited property fund, which comes from property and money seized from criminals.
“Its not county tax dollars that paid for (the robot), it was dope dealers who financed it,” Pennington said.
Drug dealers also recently financed a $324,234 Bearcat armored car for the sheriff’s office.
The armored vehicle — which was also purchased using forfeited property funds — will also be used in tactical situations such as standoffs.
The armored vehicle will enable deputies to transport negotiators to standoff situations, rescue downed citizens and officers, evacuate citizens, block getaway routes and provide cover for deputies during gunfire.