The San Francisco Police Department is proposing a new policy permitting robots to kill humans.
In what appears like a scene from Robocop, the draft policy, which highlights how the SFPD can use military-style weapons, states robots can be “used as a deadly force option when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option.”
For several weeks now, members of the city’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee have been reviewing the new equipment policy.
Although the original version of the draft didn’t include language suggesting robots’ use of deadly force, the Dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, Aaron Peskin, later added robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”
As The Verge reported:
The SFPD returned the draft with a red line crossing out Peskin’s addition, replacing it with the line that gives robots the authority to kill suspects. According to Mission Local, Peskin eventually decided to accept the change because “there could be scenarios where the deployment of lethal force was the only option.” San Francisco’s rules committee unanimously approved a version of the draft last week, which will face the Board of Supervisors on November 29th.
As outlined in the equipment policy, the SFPD has 17 remotely piloted robots, with 12 functioning.
The proposal also authorizes the deadly robots to “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments.”
As The Verge notes:
While most of the robots listed in the SFPD’s inventory are primarily used for defusing bombs or dealing with hazardous materials, newer Remotec models have an optional weapons system, and the department’s existing F5A has a tool called the PAN disruptor that can load 12-gauge shotgun shells. It’s typically used to detonate bombs from a distance. The department’s QinetiQ Talon can also be modified to hold various weapons — a weaponized version of the robot is currently used by the US Army and can equip grenade launchers, machine guns, or even a .50-caliber anti-materiel rifle.
“SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”
“SFPD has always had the ability to use lethal force when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available,” says SFPD Officer Eve Laokwansathitaya.
“SFPD does not have any sort of specific plan in place as the unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”
In 2016, the Dallas Police Department used a robot to carry out deadly force when using the Remotec F5A model owned by the SFPD armed with an explosive device to kill a suspect who shot and killed five police officers.
Dallas police chief David Brown said the department “saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was.”
According to a recent report from The Intercept, California’s Oakland Police Department is also considering letting Remotec F5A robots use deadly force.
But the Oakland PD later announced on Facebook it decided against adding “armed remote vehicles to the department.”