San Francisco Police Given Power to Use Killer Robots

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Officials in San Francisco have voted to give the city’s police the power to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations.

Police in San Francisco will be allowed to deploy potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations. 

The controversial policy was approved after weeks of scrutiny and a heated debate among the city’s board of supervisors during their meeting on Tuesday.

The vote was 8-3, with the majority agreeing to grant police the option despite strong objections from civil liberties and other police oversight groups. 

Supervisor Connie Chan, a member of the committee that forwarded the proposal to the full board, said she understood concerns over use of force but that “according to state law, we are required to approve the use of these equipments. So here we are, and it’s definitely not a easy discussion.”

The San Francisco Police Department said it does not have pre-armed robots and has no plans to arm robots with guns. But the department could deploy robots equipped with explosive charges “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect” when lives are at stake, SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement.

“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives,” she said.

The policy was approved with an amendment that specifies the circumstances in which robots can be used and clarifying that only high-ranking officers will be allowed to authorize deadly force.

The vote comes under a new California state law that requires police and sheriffs departments to inventory military grade equipment and seek approval for its use. San Francisco police currently have a dozen functioning ground robots used to assess bombs or provide eyes in low visibility situations, the department says. They were acquired between 2010 and 2017.