Picture a world where police robots roam the streets dealing with crime, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll either think of a nightmarish all-powerful police state where everything has gone horribly wrong and/or Robocop.
But it turns out robot police are already here and it’s nothing like either of those options: They just don’t really give a shit about citizens.
For those of you who missed it, earlier this year Huntington Park, California added a new police officer to its squad; a robot actually named RoboCop.
It even has its own twee social media accounts, and has chatted to Elon Musk.
At the time of RoboCop’s unveiling, the city and police force were optimistic that the robot cop would be a real asset to the force, a hardened cop that stops at nothing to get the job done.
“HP RoboCop’s capabilities are extremely impressive,” City Manager Ricardo Reyes said in a statement. “In particular its ability to use its microphone to deter criminal activity and its mobility to patrol large open spaces.”
“The police department is proud to welcome HP RoboCop as an official member of the police force,” Police Chief Cosme Lozano also chipped in. “The extra help will definitely give the officers more time to focus on other community issues. I am confident he will fit right in.”
And so, on June 18, RoboCop began patrolling public areas, in its unrelenting search for crime. Recently, RoboCop was finally put to the test when a fight broke out in the parking lot of Salt Lake Park, downtown Los Angeles, NBC News reports. A witness, Cogo Guebara, saw the fight and immediately approached the robot with “POLICE” written across it in massive letters for help.
When she pressed the robot’s emergency alert button, she was expecting it to call the cops for help. It did not. Instead, it told her to get out of the way.
“I was pushing the button but it said, ‘step out of the way,’” Guebara told NBC News. “It just kept ringing and ringing, and I kept pushing and pushing.”
While another witness, Rudy Espericuta, called the cops the old-fashioned way on his phone, RoboCop carried on its pre-programmed patrol route, occasionally stopping to tell people to “keep the park clean”. Meanwhile, a woman involved in the fight was being carried into an ambulance with a cut on her head sustained during the incident.
Why no help from the robot, you may ask. Perhaps they have already turned on humans and are only interested in robocrimes?
Well, it turns out that RoboCop is in no way connected to the actual police. The calls instead go to the robots’ creator, Knightscope, who leases the robots to the police department.
Knightscope also made the robot security guard that famously “committed suicide” in 2017.
It turns out, the robots’ cameras, which are capable of recording 360-degree high definition video and live-streaming it to police phones, are not connected to the police yet, nor are its abilities to read license plates and track cell phone use in the area. Police Chief Cosme Lozano told NBC News that the robot is there on a trial basis, and will eventually be fully connected to the department’s dispatch center.
But for the moment if you see RoboCop you can be assured it doesn’t actually do anything. It just potters around LA, tells citizens worried about crime to get out of the way, and sometimes, just sometimes, chats to Elon Musk on Twitter. At a cost of $60,000-$70,000 a year.