Robot Joins Cambridge Police Force
When the Cambridge Police Department swore in its newest member, 200 people were there to cheer him on--and according to his supervisor, "When he came out on the stage, you could hear the oohs and aahs."
Officer Caring is no ordinary cop. The 5 ft.-4 in., 180-pound officer, who looks like a blender with a glandular condition, comes to the force from 21st Century Robotics of Norcrost, Georgia. He runs on a 12-volt rechargeable cell instead of coffee and donuts, and he can be operated by remote control from 100 yards away.
Caring can move forward and backward, spin around, move his right arm, and turn his head. His special effects include sirens, a "laser sound," and the theme from the television police show Hill Street Blues.
Officer Caring is the C.P.D.'s new ARES (Auxiliary Robotic Education System) robot. He will visit Cambridge schools to warn high school students against drug abuse, peer pressure, and drunk driving, and to lecture grammar school students about the use of seat belts and school bus safety. Officer Caring will also inform 4th. 5th and 6th graders about the dangers of drug abuse before they reach high school.
Chief Anthony J. Paolillo swore in the new officer before 200 guests at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, but even before the ceremony began, Officer Caring got a warm reception from the crowd.
"The kids love him. The adults love him. He's an attention getter," said Sergeant Richard Bongiorno, Officer Caring's immediate superior.
Instead of a Smith and Wesson, Caring packs a cassette player and V.C.R in his back, a television monitor in his chest, and a red and blue rotating light in his head.
The robot's head also has room for a video camera. Bongiorno said robots with cameras have been used in a few cases to interview sexually exploited children who refused to discuss their experiences with adults. However, he said only Alaskan courts have admitted evidence gained in this manner so far.
Officer Caring is the first robot of his kind in New England. Bongiorno said other departments in New York, North Carolina, and Texas have found that robots can keep children's attention longer and that presentations at schools are more memorable for children when the speaker is a robot instead of a human police officer.
Paolillo first saw Officer Caring a year-and-a-half ago at a police chiefs' convention in Utah--and decided to recruit him for the force, said Bongiorno. He said Captain Henry Greene of the Juvenile Division joined the chief in raising the robot's $17,500 price from local contributors. The East Cambridge savings Bank came through with $15,000, and the Polaroid Foundation and the Mount Auburn Veterans of Foreign Wars supplied the rest of the money.
The East Cambridge Savings Bank sponsored a "Name The Robot" contest among Cambridge grammar school students. "Officer Caring" was selected from more than 600 entries.
The robot's addition to the force won praise from Mayor Walter Sullivan, Superintendent of Cambridge Schools Robert S. Peterkin, and members of the Cambridge School Committee, Bongiorno said.