San Francisco approves police deployment of potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots

“Robots will only 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 available to SFPD.”

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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a controversial policy allowing its law enforcement to use potentially deadly robots on people in emergencies. After weeks of debate, the Board’s decision “comes after the passing of a new California law that requires all police departments to receive approval for their military-grade equipment,” Causes.com reported.

The policy, which was approved with an amendment to the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD proposal, states the specific circumstances in which robots can be used and clarifying that only high-ranking officers will be allowed to authorize deadly force,” The Guardian reported.

“Robots will only 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 available to SFPD.”

While the San Francisco Police Department said it’s had and used unarmed robots for over a decade it has no plans to arm these robots with guns, but, moving forward, the robots could be equipped with explosives, David Lazar, the city’s assistant police chief, said.

“We have it as a tool [we can use] if we have time, have secured the scene and we weigh out if we want to risk lives or if can we send a robot,” Lazar said.

Lazar said that with San Francisco becoming more dangerous the robots would be “helpful in situations involving an active shooter or a suicide bomber” since having “the option of robots in threatening situations is vital to their safety,” Causes.com reported.

Opponents of the policy said it will increase the militarization of the SFPD especially in marginalized and underserved communities.

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing … these kinds of tools will deepen the disparities in inflicting deadly force on communities,” Dean Preston, a supervisor who represents San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, said.

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