MESA, Ariz. – The Mesa Police Department is looking to add some primal instinct to its SWAT team. And to do that, it's looking to a monkey.
"Everybody laughs about it until they really start thinking about it," said Mesa Officer Sean Truelove, who builds and operates tactical robots for the suburban Phoenix SWAT team. "It would change the way we do business."
Truelove is spearheading the department's request to purchase and train a capuchin monkey (search), considered the second smartest primate to the chimpanzee. The department is seeking about $100,000 in federal grant money to put the idea to use in Mesa SWAT operations.
The monkey, which costs $15,000, is what Truelove envisions as the ultimate SWAT reconnaissance tool.
Since 1979, capuchin monkeys have been trained to be companions for people who are quadriplegics (search) by performing daily tasks, such as serving food, opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, retrieving objects and brushing hair.
Truelove hopes the same training could prepare a monkey for special-ops intelligence.
Weighing only 3 to 8 pounds with tiny humanlike hands and puzzle-solving skills, Truelove said it could unlock doors, search buildings and find suicide victims on command. Dressed in a Kevlar vest, video camera and two-way radio, the small monkey would be able to get into places no officer or robot could go.
It has been a little over a year since Truelove filed a grant proposal with the U.S. Department of Defense under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (search), and he is still waiting for word.
If the grant goes through, Truelove plans on learning how to train the monkey himself and keeping the sociable monkey at home, just like a K-9 officer would. He projects that $85,000 in grant money would outfit the monkey with gear and pay for veterinarian care, food and habitat for three years.