- "Please put down your weapon. You have twenty seconds to comply."
- ―ED-209 to Kinney.
The Enforcement Droid, Series 209, or ED-209, are a fully-automated series of peacekeeping machines created by Omni Consumer Products. Currently, the units are programmed for urban pacification, but OCP has also negotiated contracts with the military for use in war.
The Future of Law Enforcement
During its first demonstration, ED-209 malfunctioned disastrously, blasting junior executive Mr. Kinney to death over a sustained period of time. Dr. McNamara and his fellow technicians struggled to gain control over the 209, having to pull some sort of plug to finally shut it down. Because of the Kinney tragedy, the RoboCop program was given the green-light.
Attorney General Marcos later approved the 209 series for deployment in five American cities, including Detroit City. Despite widespread complaints of malfunction, the 209 series continually stayed in service even when OCP was taken over by the Kanemitsu Corporation. They are rarely seen on the streets, and usually used as guards near OCP buildings.
It's armed with three autocannons, two on the left platform, one on the right platform with an autoshotgun and a rocket launcher capable of firing three rockets. It also has additional combat programming enabling it to melee attack at closer ranges. It's speech center can synthesize human voices for peacekeeping matters, or animal sounds when injured or angry, possibly for use on the battlefield in a similar application to a battle siren.
Despite its size and power, ED-209's logic circuits are its weak-point. It cannot process information as quickly as a human brain and this can be used against it. Your best hope of survival when faced with an ED-209 is to lure it to a location where it will be at a tactical disadvantage. Fighting one on its terms is possible, however, but you'd need some major firepower.
ED-209 also suffers from a manual override weakness that allows an unarmed and sufficiently skilled hacker to access its command system and take control of the droid. In Robocop 3 a young girl, Nikko, who has joined a resistance group, manages to achieve this by opening a compartment on the droids right leg which reveals three serial ports. Nico manually bypasses these ports and with her laptop is able to access the ED-209 command system interface, from here she is able to issue commands directly, thereby taking full control of the droid.
Behind the Scenes
The production team explains in the Criterion Collection featurettes that their approach to designing ED-209 was that OCP basically applied the same principles they used for modern automobile contracts to a military-grade walker-drone: OCP designed it to look impressive and flashy, but it really isn't very reliable "under the hood". Like a modern American car cranked out by a vacuous corporate executives and lowest-bid design teams, they cut corners everywhere. Punctuating this, Dick Jones even outright states that it was irrelevant if ED-209 actually worked: it only had to outwardly look just impressive enough that it could dupe the rest of the board and potential buyers into accepting the development contract. It's the Ford Pinto of robot walker-drones. Some of the design features on ED-209 are supposed to accentuate the "style over substance" comparison to corporate-designed low-bid automobiles, such as how it has metal grating around the front of the head like some modern SUV's - which apparently is only there to look "cool", and has no real function.
Highlighting that Jones cares more about contracts than how products are actually used, from a purely physical standpoint the ED-209 is ill-suited to urban pacification and police work: it has difficulty simply climbing stairs. The entire point of the ED-209 project was just as a backdoor to an even more lucrative military contract, and deploying them for police work was just a badly mismatched test run. It was the equivalent of selling Abrams tanks or Apache helicopter gunships to Detroit, marketed as an actual replacement for patrols by mobile beat-cops and SWAT teams. This doesn't even begin to cover the severe programming shortfalls in the ED-209: even on a military battlefield, they'd probably end up shooting at units on their own side.
The irony of course is that Dick Jones ended up being foisted by his own petard: he intentionally developed ED-209 as a cheap inferior product to sell like snake-oil to unsuspecting buyers, but then honestly thought he could rely on his flawed creation as his ace-in-the-hole against RoboCop.
The propsmasters in the Criterion Collection featurettes point out that they cheated during RoboCop's fight with ED-209 in Dick Jones office: it is obvious even by looking at the prop that the weapons-stub arms cannot be turned to shoot sideways, and thus, it was actually physically impossible for RoboCop push one of its arms to shoot off the other arm. He might have been able to do this if the other arm was partially damaged and hanging by wires, but in the next scene ED-209's remaining arm is still firmly attached.