He’s not stealthy quiet or small enough to go unnoticed, but the newest member of the Weatherford College Police Department’s job is to sleuth out information during the direst of situations.
Mr. D is a MARCbot IV previously used in Iraq to inspect suspicious objects and prevent injuries from IEDs. Now he can be found roaming the campus of WC learning the lay of the land thanks to a grant from the federal government.
“We were trying to buy equipment in case of an active shooter situation,” said WCPD Operations Sgt. Bill Cooper. “We’d send this in to look at the scene rather than an officer. A robot can potentially neutralize the situation. It’s not a threat. It’s not a weapon.”
Cooper started out in search of funds to provide body cameras for the seven officers on the campus department, but found the task difficult due to the department’s small size which eliminates them from many of the grants. Then he came across the 1033 Military Surplus Property Program – a first come, first serve program that disperses demilitarized goods to civilian law enforcement agencies.
He began searching through the list of available items and set his eyes on a MARCbot IV and submitted his request to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“They said we weren’t big enough and to stop asking for a robot,” Cooper said. But he persisted and his request eventually climbed the chain of command until a robot was set aside for Weatherford College.
For just the cost of shipping, about $30, WCPD received two robots – Mr. D and a second MARCbot IV that has seen quite a bit of action oversees. The second bot, missing a wheel and some other components, will be used for parts as this model is no longer in production. However, neither robot included a functioning battery or charger.
In addition to serving the students at WC, Cooper is also president of the Brock ISD school board. He mentioned the robot and its missing components to fellow board member John McGuire who is also the sales manager at the Durant Toyota dealership.
McGuire arranged to have the Jerry Durant Auto Group provided both the needed battery and charger, and to show their gratitude the WCPD named the bot Mr. D.
“Bill occasionally comes to me with ideas on how we can better support our community, kids specifically,” McGuire said. “And Mr. Durant has always had a passion for education and kids which has flowed down through the ranks.
“It would be great if it’s never used, but it’s also great just to have it. And to not have it just because of a battery – well we thought it would be good to step up and help out the college.”
Once all the parts were in, Mr. D, the partial robot, battery and charger were sent to the WC technology department where everything was put in working order. It didn’t take long to remove all the sand clogging the robot and bring it to a functioning point, but the police department had to wait a few days for the techies to return Mr. D.
“We were glad we could help,” said Kevin Coats from technology services. “It’s nice to see Weatherford College get some really cool technology.”
Mr. D has since been seen roaming campus greeting faculty, staff and students as Cooper shows off the newest member of the WCPD.
“Hopefully, we’ll never use him,” Cooper said. “But if we do, at least we don’t have to send an officer down a hall to find something that could turn bad. A robot is one of those things that when you see it you’re intrigued.”
John McGuire, Bill Cooper, Jerry Durant, and Paul Stone