San Francisco Debates Use of Killer Robots

Police want to keep the option open
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2022 12:45 PM CST
San Francisco Police Want Option of Using Killer Robots
A remotely controlled bomb disposal robot approaches a red suitcase on a platform at the Chemnitz Central Station in eastern Germany.   (Arno Burgi/dpa via AP)

San Francisco has long been known as one of America's most liberal cities—but that doesn't mean its police force is opposed to using killer robots. The San Francisco Police Department has proposed authorizing robots to use deadly force in certain situations, the Verge reports. According to a draft policy, the force wants the option of using robots normally used for duties like bomb disposal to kill suspects "when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent." In what is believe to be the first such use of a robot in the US, police in Dallas, Texas, used a robot to kill a suspect who had fatally shot five officers in 2016.

Weeks ago, Aaron Peskin, dean of the city's board of supervisors, added the words "robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person" to a new policy being drafted on law enforcement's use of robots and other equipment, the Verge reports. In a change Peskin decided to accept, the police department removed his addition and added one on when robots could be used as lethal force. "The original policy they submitted was actually silent on whether robots could deploy lethal force," said Peskin. He said the police department made a good case that "there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option," per Engadget.

The city's police department currently has 17 remotely operated robots in its inventory, 12 of them functional. One of them has a tool that can load shotgun shells and others can be adapted to hold weapons, the Verge notes. Tifanei Moyer, who leads work on police misconduct and militarization at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, says debating the use of killer robots isn't normal and residents shouldn't act like it is. "We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” Moyer says per Mission Local. (More robots stories.)

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