San Francisco Approves Motion for Police to Deploy Robots Capable of Using Deadly Force


San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is backing a policy that seems like something out of the beginning of a 1980s dystopian sci-fi movie.

In a vote on Tuesday, the 11-member board approved a measure granting permission for the police to deploy armed robots in certain situations.

City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman explained the police will have access to seven robots.

The robots are “designed to neutralize dispose of bombs, and provide video reconnaissance for operators.”

“Under this policy, SFPD is authorized to use these robots to carry out deadly force in extremely limited situations when risk to loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available,” he explained.

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He added, “Despite the hyperbole expressed by many who oppose this policy, I believe it lays out reasonable restrictions on the use of robots.”

However, Hillary Ronen, one of the supervisors opposed to the measure, tweeted, “Beyond disappointed that the Board seems poised to allow SFPD to use weaponized robots to use force against human beings. Only 4 of us clearly against. Shortsighted, dangerous, sad. The spirit of the SF I have always admired is weeping today.”

The San Francisco Police Department said in a statement that it does not have pre-armed robots, nor does it plan to arm them with guns. However, it may equip them with explosives designed to “contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect.”

Surely that is a comforting clarification.

The policy did not specify how the robots could be equipped.

Instead, it states, “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”

Allison Maxie, a spokesperson for the department said, “Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives.”

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And of course, this is happening in a city that spent $20,000 on trash can prototypes and $1.7 million on a public toilet. So we can have faith that this robot program will be incredibly efficient.

Measures that limit the loss of life are a good thing.

But if you’re struggling to feel safer knowing these potentially explosive-equipped robots could be on the street after watching movies about robot takeovers, you’re probably not alone.

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