Leave it to California to introduce a policing “innovation” that makes Barney Fife look like Judge Dredd.
When the Huntington Park Police Force rolled out “HP Robocop” in June of this year, it was heralded as a major step for public safety for its supposed ability to keep an extra pair of eyes on patrol without taking an officer off assignment.
“This is a big accomplishment for our city and introducing HP RoboCop shows innovation and the incorporation of new technology,” Mayor Karina Macias said at the robot’s introduction.
“I am certainly impressed with HP RoboCop and can’t wait to see the public safety benefits it will bring to our community.”
RoboCop recently got its first test in the realities of policing, and the machine definitely didn’t live up to its imposing name.
According to NBC News, when a fight broke out in Salt Lake Park, a bystander rushed to RoboCop and pushed the robot’s call button. Nothing happened.
“I was pushing the button but it said, ‘step out of the way,’” Cogo Guebara said. “It just kept ringing and ringing, and I kept pushing and pushing.”
The woman figured it needed to scan a face, possibly a deterrent to prank alerts, and positioned herself in front of the robot’s camera to no effect.
A woman with Guebara then used a cell phone to call 911, and first responders arrived 15 minutes later.
By then, the fight had already ended and one woman was bleeding from a wound on her head. Despite the chaos, RoboCop continued to follow its pre-determined route.
Video shows that the robot plays cheesy sci-fi music as it moves at a snail’s pace around the park.
Needless to say, this robot is useless. Unfortunately, the city is paying a premium for this rolling piece of scrap metal.
Documents obtained by Muckrock reveal what that the robot’s uselessness isn’t the only shocking part of this program.
HP Robocop isn’t operated by the city, but by third party contractor Knightscope. Calls from the robot aren’t sent to cops as of yet, despite the bold “POLICE” decals on the machine, but to a Knightscope call center.
Apparently, nobody was manning the phones while the fight at Salt Lake Park raged on.
For this first-rate service, Knightscope is charging the Huntington Park Police Department a whopping $6,000 per month, with some bills reflecting that as much as $8,000 was paid in one month.
Police told KABC that “HP Robocop’s full capabilities including camera monitoring and 911 connection are currently pending.”
What Robocop is lacking in policing ability, it makes up for in 1984-style surveillance.
The robot comes with a battery of sensors and cameras capable of recording faces and license plates. In addition, one on-board device allows the machine to record details from smartphones within range. Knightscope claims the robot can compile a “blacklist” of individuals and alert officials when it encounters one.
For $6,000 a month, the city could afford to hire a top-rate cop that doesn’t seem to exclusively serve as a data collection device.
The complete failure of “RoboCop” proves that there’s not a single gadget or machine that can replace traditional police work.
While these devices may make officers’ jobs easier, nothing beats the judgement of a well-honed human mind.
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