In an idea that might seem straight out of a dystopian sci-fi movie, San Francisco police want city leaders to let them use a small stash of military-style robots to kill people.
SFPD will make to
Board of Supervisors Tuesday can conjure up images of autonomous robots gone rogue. But proponents point out that the police will control the machines and only allow serious injury or death as a last resort in the face of an immediate and deadly threat. The idea is for police to use them to thwart – or mitigate – mass casualties.
The proposal will apply to 17 SFPD bots have already been supported over the past decade or so. Robots are remotely piloted vehicles designed to neutralize bombs or enter places that are too risky or dangerous for officers.
A police spokesperson said the SFPD had never before deployed the robots to “deliver any lethal force”. The proposal would also mark the SFPD’s first policy on whether officers can use their mechanical kits to harm people.
However, the killer robot would not be unprecedented for the US police.
In 2016, the Dallas Police They said they had no choice but to send a bot Pounds of explosives detonated in an explosion that killed a gunman who shot dead five policemen. SFPD has similar bots.
SFPD formulated its policy to comply with California law, Assembly Bill 481This requires law enforcement agencies to disclose all military equipment in their arsenals and come up with rules about how it is used. The policy is one of many police will ask the Board of Supervisors to approve on Tuesday.
Moderator Raphael Mandelman, who supports allowing police robots to use deadly force, said he understands why it might make some people think of RoboCop. But he called this reaction “extremely misleading”.
He said: “The idea that we will decide not to use technology that in exceptional and urgent circumstances can avoid the loss of a large number of lives, because people do not like robots, seems to me strange and wrong.”
The idea to authorize the use of lethal force for robots came from cross-discussions between the SFPD and Superintendent Aaron Peskin, who heads
Rules Committee. Mayor London Breed sponsored the proposal, which was First reported by Mission Local.
The spirit of the proposal, Peskin said, is for police robots to only resort to lethal force “with utmost prudence in insane situations that threaten collective life.”
“This was in no way intended to be a commonly used policy,” Peskin said. He also noted the lack of a current policy of using robotic force.
“Without this state law, we would never have had this conversation and they could do whatever they wanted,” Peskin said.
However, the prospect of killer robots has impressed critics.
Yoel Haley, a director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, called it a “terrible idea” and an “extreme” request encouraged by a board of supervisors that Recently the police gave permission to make use of the live surveillance cameras.
“We can’t believe we have to say this,” Haley said in a prepared statement. “No, police departments should not have killer robots.”
Haley argued that bots will not make San Francisco safer and may “make it easier for officers to accidentally pull the trigger and impede people’s ability to seek justice when wrongful killings occur.”
Superintendent Dean Preston said the motion represented the extent of the pendulum swing from the national movement to reform — and defunding — that the Minneapolis police galvanized with the killing of George Floyd.
“I’m still scratching my head that this is seriously suggested,” Preston said.
He later added, “If it wasn’t so deadly, I would have said it was laughable.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaman Walton seemed equally amazed.
“I can’t even fathom a robot functioning in this capacity,” he said. “I am still in shock at this suggestion.”
Furthermore, he added, the bots could herald “a potential loss of jobs for those whom I represent, humans.”
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