A highly controversial new policy enacted by city supervisors last week will allow San Francisco police to employ robots to kill people in limited emergencies, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
According to the SFPD, officers could use lethal force against dangerous criminals such as mass shooters or suicide bombers in rare situations.
“There could be an extraordinary circumstance where, in a virtually unimaginable emergency, they might want to deploy lethal force to render, in some horrific situation, somebody from being able to cause further harm,” said supervisor Aaron Peskin, describing the police’s justification for wanting to kill someone with a robot.
The proposal was supported by a majority of municipal supervisors, who voted eight to three in favour. However, sceptics, including a minority of the board, were outraged by the policy, fearing it would be abused and allow cops to kill individuals too quickly. Supervisors Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen, and Shamann Walton voted no.
“This is a local police force here to protect us. This is not the U.S. military that we are arming,” Preston said at the board meeting. “There is serious potential for misuse and abuse of this military-grade technology, and zero showing of necessity.”
Although the police robots in San Francisco are not new, their potential uses are. SFPD spokesperson Robert Rueca claims that between 2010 and 2017, the department purchased 17 robots, 12 of which are now in use.
While the department has no intentions to equip robots with guns, the robots in its arsenal might be outfitted with explosive charges to breach structures harbouring violent suspects or used to contact or incapacitate dangerous people “who pose a risk of loss of life to law enforcement,” according to Rueca.