HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. – Police officers can’t be everywhere at once. Between budget cuts, staffing issues and an increase in violent crime across the country, cops are in huge demand.
So naturally we turn to technology to help solve the problem.
But what do we do when that technology we depend on fails us miserably?
That’s the exact scenario police found themselves dealing with in California this week, after a woman attempting to get help from police was completely ignored by a security robot patrolling the area.
A report from NBC News said that Cogo Guebara was in Salt Lake Park recently when she noticed two people fighting in the parking lot. Thinking quickly, she ran over to a nearby roving LAPD police robot in an attempt to get police dispatched to the area.
But it didn’t exactly go as planned.
“I was pushing the button but it said, ‘step out of the way,’” Guebara said. “It just kept ringing and ringing, and I kept pushing and pushing.”
Guebara said she tried a number of things, even going so far as to crouch down in case the embedded camera wanted to get visual confirmation of her face.
But nothing worked.
Looks like this needs a little more work before going live ? https://t.co/kPeGWU7Y5h
— Greg Stevenson (@GT_Stevenson) October 10, 2019
A man nearby used his cellphone to call 911 and emergency crews got to the scene. By the time the fight was over, one woman had to be hospitalized for head trauma.
The frustrating experience has a number of people wondering what function the automated police bots serve if they can’t be used to get officers to the scene of an emergency.
While the officers and EMS workers cleaned up the scene, the police bot reportedly continued to put through the park, stopping routinely to display messages about keeping the park clean.
Cosme Lozano, police chief of Huntington Park, said that the robot’s alert button was not yet hooked up to reach the department, despite it being on ‘patrol’ since June.
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Lozano says they need more time to get the robots fully functioning with all features.
“That’s why we’re not advertising those features,” Lozano said. “It’s a new program for us and were still developing some protocols… to be able to fully adopt the program.”
The company who designed the bots is called Knightscope. They have over 70 autonomous security robots on the market.
The K5 model, nicknamed HP RoboCop by the department, supposedly has abilities that include a 360-degree HD live video stream, a license plate reader that can scan 1,200 plates a minute, a two-way intercom and the ability to track cell phone use in the vicinity, according to Knightscope.
But right now, HP Robocop appears to be more of a glorified nanny cam on wheels… Essentially, the bot serves as a deterrent to criminals and allows parents to feel that their children are safe at play.
Knightscope’s patrol bots aren’t the only robotic technology being tested and implemented in the law enforcement field.
A robotics company known as SRI International has developed their own take on tech in policing, and if used, it could save lives.
SRI has developed a deployable robot that keeps officers in their cruisers during traffic stops.
The new device was designed to keep members of law enforcement out of harm’s way. Keeping LEO’s in their cars protects against deadly motor vehicle accidents as well as suspects using guns or other weapons against the responding unit.
So far this year, 10 law enforcement officers have been struck and killed in the line of duty while working on the side of roadways. Another 15 were killed in vehicle crashes and 36 have been killed by gunfire.
Might some of them still be with us if this technology was employed?
— Fortress Bay Area (@FortressBayArea) May 2, 2019
While the idea seems pretty cool, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
This assumes that everyone pulling over for a traffic stop is courteous and obeys commands given by the officer. What happens when the driver doesn’t comply?
Does a camera really allow for the same ability to observe the interior of the car to look for suspicious items like weapons or narcotics?
We know that minor infringements can escalate very quickly. What happens when something doesn’t go according to plan?
Since the ticket-printing robot extends out to the car on an arm, what happens when the suspect runs? Is the car still equipped to give chase?
Check out this video on how the new design would work.
Scott’s Law has been a trending topic this year, as well as the hashtag #MoveOver on social media, both issuing a call to remind drivers to give room to emergency vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road.
Could this initiative save lives?
Or does taking the human element out of the scenario change law enforcement all together?