Officer Defender to the Rescue
Houston’s young residents are learning about crime prevention and safety in an unorthodox and engaging manner … from a robot. Officer Defender, is touring the Houston area talking with children and the important messages are resonating.
The Houston Police Department (HPD), with funding from State Farm, purchased a robot and children at a local Boys and Girls Club named it Officer Defender. With Officer Defender on duty, HPD is better-equipped to engage small or large groups of children from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade in a purposeful and powerful way. Officer Defender shares safety messages about:
- stranger danger
- gang prevention
- drug prevention
- gun safety
- personal safety
- cyber safety
- pool/water safety and
- 911 emergency procedures
In 2015, between January and August, Officer Defender reached more than 14,000 students during visits to elementary and middle schools as well as at the Houston Police Academy during Police Week events.
“The boys and girls were completely engaged in the presentation, each wanting a turn to talk with the robot,” shared Corpus Christi Catholic School Principal Dr. Mazie McCoy after a presentation by Officer Defender. “Teachers and parents said the students were still talking about the robot days after the presentation. Thanks to Officer Defender, our youth will always remember these important lessons!”
“When small kids walk up to me, they are amazed that I can see and talk back to them,” stated Officer Defender. “They can see my police badge and I sometimes activate my police lights and siren.”
Officer Defender has met many people, but there is one that stood out from the rest. Kyssi Andrews, a vibrant six year old who fought cancer for more than three years before she passed away in June of 2015, told her parents her dream was to be a police officer. Texas law enforcement officials were eager to make her dream come true.
She was granted the status as an honorary Texas State Trooper and Houston Police Officer. She was given the red carpet treatment when those honors were conferred upon her: receiving specially made uniforms, riding a horse with Mounted Patrol, meeting a K-9 Officer, riding in a HPD patrol car, and getting a private tour of the police museum; however, the best surprise was a visit with Officer Defender.
Kyssi was captivated by every sound or motion the robot made and she asked several questions while she attempted to figure out exactly how Officer Defender spoke and moved. For weeks after, Kyssi talked about this special meeting and Officer Defender’s safety messages.
“It’s always a joy to work through Officer Defender because children are captivated by the robot’s presence and they remember what he says to them,” said Officer EJ Joseph the human who voices and controls the robot.
Officer Defender is proving to be a helpful safety-focused robot and an amazing goodwill ambassador serving the Greater Houston Area.