San Francisco Legalizes Police Robots Using Lethal Force
In a vote that is turning heads across the country, the board of supervisors in San Francisco, California, has voted to allow police to utilize robotic law enforcement tools, including those that can use lethal force.
The vote is being met with a lot of fear and/or sarcasm on social media.
The vote would allow San Francisco police to use non-human law enforcement - in the form of remote-controlled robots - to use potentially lethal force in emergency situations.
Via the Associated Press:
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. Opponents said the authority would lead to the further militarization of a police force already too aggressive with poor and minority communities.
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 says they do not currently have robots capable of using lethal force, and that they have no plans to arm robots with guns. The request for authorization for use of force was a necessary step in case law enforcement needed a safe way to handle dangerous suspects.
“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives,” SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement.
But that does little to ease the minds of those who are skeptical.
It does indeed remind one of Omni Consumer Corp., the fictional company responsible for creating a RoboCop in the popular movie franchise of the same name.
The vote comes as SFPD currently has a dozen functioning robots that are used to assess bombs and other dangerous situations - especially when sent into low-visibility situations, according to the department - but the use of lethal force in this fashion needs authorization from local governmental bodies, according to a recent law passed in California.
That law requires law enforcement agencies to take stock of military-grade equipment and seek approval for their use. It was passed in 2021.