Robocops are meant to be the police force of tomorrow, coming from the future to fight crime, no pension required (although they cost $60,000-$70,000 a year to lease—about the same as a human cop’s annual salary). People are apparently excited about the possibility of safer traffic stops and omnipresent police forces. There’s just one problem: Robocops may not be very good at their job yet.
Take, for example, Officer HP RoboCop, who has been patrolling Salt Lake Park in Huntington, California, since June. When a fight broke out in the parking lot, a bystander jumped into action, pressing the emergency alert button on the RoboCop’s egg-shaped body over and over again. The police never responded. Instead, the 400-pound robot reportedly just kept gliding on a preprogrammed route through the park, telling visitors to “please keep the park clean,” while two people beat each other up in the parking lot. According to NBC News, the robot’s alert button was not yet connected to the police department.
Instead, the calls went to Knightscope, the Silicon Valley company that creates and leases “crime-fighting autonomous data machines.” The public looking for help called 911 the old-fashioned way—on their phone. A police spokesperson told NBC that they weren’t advertising the emergency-alert feature yet, because its protocol was still being developed while the robocop was on a trial run. For now, the robot’s looming presence is supposed to work as a crime deterrent—and it has worked, reportedly—while the department and Knightscope figure out functionality.
No one told the public, though, that the “emergency alert button” on the giant robot police officer patrolling the park didn’t actually work yet. Oops. If you’re looking for help and get nothing, it’s no surprise that people want to beat them up on occasion.
We’ve reached out to Knightscope about this incident and will update if we hear back.