By Paul Myers
exeter – Exeter’s newest addition to the force looks a little different than some might expect. The Exeter Police Department introduced their newest resource in Officer Nitro, a robot suited mascot meant to represent the Exeter police on school campuses and in the community.
While he might not be able to make arrests, he can prevent crime before it even begins… through education. Officer Nitro’s main function is to educate students about the dangers of drugs, bullies and gangs. Officer Nitro will make regular visits to schools, community facilities like the Boys and Girls Club, and other community events.
And according to school resource officer Kyle Stark, who spearheaded the Officer Nitro project, the new face to the police department helps students recognize that police are there to serve.
“This is part of a trend to show kids that police are good, and that we are trying to work with you,” said Stark.
When Stark began the project he was sure to work with students. In fact Stark brought the idea to theatre arts teachers, Michelle Duarte, at Exeter High School to enlist their students in building the script Officer Nitro will use as a part of skits and shows around the community.
“It’s going to be like a play at an assembly or something similar. For instance a kid is going to be being bullied or a problem is going to come up and Nitro will catch the bad guy or thwart the crime, and this is the script he’ll be reading off of,” Stark said.
In fact, creating the script was such a large undertaking that Duarte used that assignment in place of their regularly scheduled final.
According to Stark the students did so well that an overwhelming majority of them got an A. By the end of the school year the scripts were turned into the police department where officer Stark chose the scripts written by Taylor Wester, Noah Uruchurtu, Lauren Jones, Megan Anderson, and Mia Stokes. And during last week’s Aug. 9 Exeter City Council meeting Stark handed each contributing author a certificate for their contribution.
“I wanted to get the kids input because I wanted Nitro to teach or talk about what the kids care about,” Stark professed.
Also during the council meeting, Chief Cliff Bush handed all the credit to Stark, noting that Nitro was his brainchild. Stark professed that the idea was born when he went to a reading day event put on by Rocky Hill School, along with other officers, parents, firefighters, etc. While he was waiting for another class to let him in he saw one man wearing an Iron-Man costume that looked very well done.
“I turned to the Chief and said how cool it would be to have something like that for the police department,” said Stark.
From then Stark put in a call to Robot Costumes U.S.A. who have worked with clients as large as Disney. And with only a couple months left in the school year Stark introduced Officer Nitro to campus. Throughout the summer Stark worked on improvement, including a voice modifier that Stark soldered himself, which disguises the wearer’s voice.
However, a black and silver Exeter Police Department issued suit is nothing without a cool car to go with it. Stark reached out to First Choice Paint and Body in Exeter to paint one of the three donated humvees from Army Supply. As well, Cali Graphics donated the decal of the Exeter badge on the side of the humvee.
And now that the police department has their version of Iron-Man and a matching vehicle, Stark plans to tour him around town.
“I hope that we can get him into every single parade we have too,” Stark stated.