The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) is considering to deploy robots to kill suspects that they think deem a serious threat to the public or police officers. The police department is currently petitioning for the policy to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco.
The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee comprise of supervisors Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, and Connie Chan. Aaron Peskin initially attempted to restrict SFPD's authority over robots as a means of force. However, the police department struck out his suggestion with a thick red line (pictured below) and proposed their usage.
The wording was replaced by the department's ask for authorization to use military-style weapons-equipped robots that can 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.”
An earlier version of this draft was unanimously accepted by the committee last week. However, as Peskin notes, “The original policy they submitted was actually silent on whether robots could deploy lethal force." However, he decided to approve SPFD's updated guidelines as the department made the case that “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.”
As Mission Local reports, the draft policy has been criticized by advocates for its language on robot force. The SFPD has excluded its inventory of hundreds of assault rifles in the draft, as well as personnel costs in the price of its weapons.
Tafanei Moyer, a senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, was rather less convinced with this idea. He said, “We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge".
“This is not normal. No legal professional or ordinary resident should carry on as if it is normal", she added.
The SFPD currently has 17 robots as part of its arsenal out of which 12 are fully functional. The robots are remote-controlled ones and are typically used for investigation purpose, and tasks such as defusing a potential bomb, surveillance of areas which could be dangerous for police officers.