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'What could possibly go wrong?' SFPD wants ROBOTS to use ‘deadly force’ to kill active shooters

Robotic use of force has never been authorized or forbidden in San Francisco, the committee last week unanimously approved a draft of proposed policy
SFPD is lining up a proposal to deploy ground attack robots in police force (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
SFPD is lining up a proposal to deploy ground attack robots in police force (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) is considering using robots to perform attacks in "rare" situations. The force's 12 robots will support officers by using lethal force when necessary and providing "ground support." The new policy proposal, which will be discussed by the Rules Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors next week, will specify how the SFPD is permitted to deploy its military-style weaponry.

By mounting a PAN disruptor device—which makes use of shotgun shells—to the robot, the devices are capable of unleashing devastating damage. Another approach would be to attach explosives to a robot which would then be used to detonate a suspect like it was done in Dallas in 2016. The committee's supervisors, Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, and Connie Chan, have been closely examining the proposed policy over the previous few weeks. Peskin, the committee's chair, made an early effort to restrict the SFPD's control over the robots. "Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person,” Peskin wrote. The police department removed this and substituted language that codifies the department's right to use fatal force while utilizing robots in its stead. “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available to SFPD.”


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A bomb disposal robot rolls down Wilson Street in Green Valley November 8, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. Sixteen people have been arrested in Sydney and Melbourne overnight, in raids conducted by more than 400 police. A man was also shot in the neck in Green Valley in the same operation. New South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney says a terrorist attack has been foiled.
Ground attack robots with a license to kill are being talked about by the SFPD (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

Robotic use of force has never been authorized or forbidden in San Francisco. The rules committee last week unanimously approved a draft of the proposed policy which will be presented to the full board on November 29. “The original policy they submitted was actually silent on whether robots could deploy lethal force,” Peskin said to Mission Local. The agency had argued that “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option," therefore he made the decision to adopt the SFPD's caveated guidelines. 12 of the SFPD's 17 robots are fully operational but they have never been used to attack anyone. The robots may be remotely operated and are often employed to search for and disarm suspected bombs or to examine locations that would be too hazardous or difficult for cops to enter.

In accordance with the new draft policy, the technology may be used for "training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments." Another issue with supporters is that the SFPD did not include maintenance or training costs when estimating the cost of its military-style firearms. AB 481 stipulates that expenses must include "'acquisition, personnel, training, transportation, maintenance, storage, upgrade, and other ongoing costs" for the weapons. Once the regulations have been established, the process will start over with the Sheriff's Department which will have to develop its own policy to adhere to AB 481.

Over the breakthrough of this story, fans on Twitter have expressed their concerns as one user wrote, “San Francisco cops are probably gonna get killer robots. This uh, this is exactly as dystopian as I expected but y'know." Another person went on to say, "Make no mistake, this enables cops to kill remotely it's not a killer robot it's a drone that will be piloted by proven racist murders." One user added, "I mean, what could go wrong with killer robots, right?" Another person tweeted, "Bad enough we have killer self driving cars. Do we really need to create killer robots? What could possibly go wrong?" One user stated, "Scratching San Francisco off my visit, or any other place that wants to use killer robots. Not going to get killed by a software glitch."






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