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San Francisco Police Consider Using Robots to Kill Suspects

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The San Francisco Police Department is proposing a new policy that would allow police to kill suspects using robots.

The draft policy, which outlines how the SFPD can use military-style weapons, states robots 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 available to SFPD.”

Mission Local reported:

The new policy, which defines how the SFPD is allowed to use its military-style weapons, was put together by the police department. Over the past several weeks, it has been scrutinized by supervisors Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman and Connie Chan, who together comprise the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee.

The draft policy faces criticism from advocates for its language on robot force, as well as for excluding hundreds of assault rifles from its inventory of military-style weapons and for not including personnel costs in the price of its weapons.

Peskin, chair of the committee, initially attempted to limit the SFPD’s authority over the department’s robots by inserting the sentence, “Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”

The following week, the police struck out his suggestion with a thick red line.

It was replaced by language that codifies the department’s authority to use lethal force via robots: “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.”

This could mark a legal crossing of the Rubicon for the city: Robot use-of-force has never before been approved, nor has it ever been prohibited, in San Francisco. A version of this draft policy was unanimously accepted by the rules committee last week and will come before the full board on Nov. 29.

“The original policy they submitted was actually silent on whether robots could deploy lethal force,” said Peskin. He added that he decided to approve the SFPD’s caveated guidelines because the department had made the case that “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.”

More details from The Verge:

As outlined in the equipment policy, the SFPD currently has 17 remotely piloted robots, but only 12 are functioning. In addition to granting robots the ability to use deadly force, the proposal also authorizes them for use in “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments.”

While most of the robots listed in the SFPD’s inventory are primarily used for defusing bombs or dealing with hazardous materials, newer Remotec models have an optional weapons system, and the department’s existing F5A has a tool called the PAN disruptor that can load 12-gauge shotgun shells. It’s typically used to detonate bombs from a distance. The department’s QinetiQ Talon can also be modified to hold various weapons — a weaponized version of the robot is currently used by the US Army and can equip grenade launchers, machine guns, or even a .50-caliber anti-materiel rifle.

“SFPD has always had the ability to use lethal force when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available,” says SFPD Officer Eve Laokwansathitaya, in a statement to The Verge. “SFPD does not have any sort of specific plan in place as the unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”

Read the full draft policy HERE.





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