Authorities in San Francisco decided on Tuesday to allow local cops to use possibly deadly, remote-operated robots in disaster situations, after an extremely heated debate that revealed differences on the politically liberal board regarding backing for police departments.
Emotional Debate Over Robots
The majority voted in favor of granting officers the choice, despite heavy opposition from civil liberties and other police accountability organizations.
Critics contend that the power would result in the increasing militarization of a police department that is already excessively hostile towards poor and minority populations.
A Future With Killer Robots?
Supervisor Connie Chan, a panel member that advanced the request to the entire board, stated, that based on state legislation, they must authorize the use of such types of equipment. This is not a simple debate.
The San Francisco Police Department has no pre-armed robots and no intentions to equip robots with firearms.
Lives are on the line, however, the agency could utilize robots outfitted with explosive charges to confront, paralyze, or debilitate belligerent, armed, or deadly suspects, according to SFPD spokesman Allison Maxie.
San Francisco police clarified that it would not arm robots with guns. Instead, they would be equipped with explosives. https://t.co/u9h2SDPwOO
— KRON4 News (@kron4news) November 29, 2022
When Would Killer Robots Be Used?
Robots outfitted in this fashion would only be utilized in dire situations to save or avoid the loss of innocent life.
Supervisors modified the suggestion on Tuesday to stipulate that cops could only deploy robots after employing alternatives in force or de-escalation strategies, or after finding that they would be unable to control the individual using these methods. A restricted number of high-ranking commanders could approve the use of lethal force robots.
The San Francisco Police Department has a dozen operational ground robots for assessing bombs and providing eyes in poor visibility circumstances. They were collected between 2010 and 2017, and police authorities claim they were never utilized to carry an incendiary device.
After a new California law came into force this year mandating police and sheriff’s agencies to stock military hardware and getting permission for its usage, express permission was necessary.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) November 30, 2022
David Chiu, the city attorney of San Francisco, wrote the state bill during his time as an assembly member the year before. The Act aims to give the public a platform and participation in the procurement and deployment of military-grade weapons that have a harmful impact on communities.
A federal program has long provided local police departments with rocket launchers, military fatigues, bayonets, military vehicles, and other army surplus hardware.
Hot Topic Robots
In 2017, the ex-President Donald Trump issued an order reinstating a Pentagon program that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had halted in 2015, in part due to concern regarding the use of military equipment during demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, following Michael Brown’s gunshot death.
The San Francisco Police Department reported late Tuesday that no robots were procured from army surplus, but that a few were bought using federal grant funds.