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San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday night to allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to use remote-controlled and potentially lethal robots in emergency situations. The board voted 8-3 in favor of giving police the option to deploy robots as a last resort in emergency situations.
Tuesday night, the board added language to the proposal to specify that officers can only use such robots after using alternative force, de-escalation tactics or deciding that the subject wouldn’t be subdued using these alternative means. Even then, only a few high-ranking officers can authorize the use of robots for deadly force.
This will allow officers to use ground-based robots to kill “when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and officers cannot subdue the threat after using alternative force options or de-escalation tactics.”
The vote followed an over two-hour-long debate, with opponents of the measure voicing concerns about further militarization of San Francisco’s police force, which civil liberties and other police oversight groups said was already too aggressive with poor and minority communities.
Proponents of the measure, however, said using robots in extreme situations can keep more police officers safe by taking them out of deadly situations. Some said it could decrease the use of deadly force, as officers often use it when they feel their lives are in danger, and a robot would remove that risk.
Currently, the San Francisco Police Department says it has no pre-armed robots and no plans to start strapping guns to robots. Instead, the department said it could equip one of its 12 functioning robots with explosive charges. According to SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie, these robots would be used to contact, incapacitate or disorient armed or dangerous suspects.
“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives,” Maxie said in a statement.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office said the policy “strikes a good balance between protecting lives and establishing guardrails to prevent misuse” in a statement about the decision.
John Schwan says
As stated in the article by “Aaron Prather, They get us out of those Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous jobs.” Isn’t the officer included in that statement? Seems like a very dangerous job to me. I thank God for the men and women that protect our society at the potential cost of their lives. This tool, allows them to handle a situation and be safe. It allows the officer in control to make a reasoned decision (safely behind a screen) without the stress of a micro-second decision of kill or be killed (face to face with an assailant).
I challenge any opponent to this technology advancement consider themselves volunteering to go in and take the place of the officer in this situation. Does that change your position?
Now if the robot is AI (artificial intelligence) and allowed to make a decision on lethal force all on its own; I would not agree with that.
STOP!!!! We dont want that there, or anywhere!!!! Robots with bomb? What next? Robot with knife? STOP in the name of the law. https://webhome.auburn.edu/~vestmon/robotics.html
Leo Gessford Jr. says
Isnt sending in an actual human the ‘last resort?’ The robot should be the first resort! This is dumb.