San Francisco Approves Lethal Force Robots


Lethal Force Robot | Image by Sebastien Cote/Getty Images

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted eight to three on Tuesday to approve a policy granting police officers the ability to use lethal force with remote-controlled robots via explosive charge in “extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of life.”

The SFPD said that, under the new policy, robots could be used to deliver an explosive to breach a structure containing a violent or armed subject in “extreme circumstances.” This charge would be used to “incapacitate or disorient a violent, armed, or dangerous subject who presents a risk of loss of life” and could “cause injury or be lethal.”

“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives. Only the chief of police, assistant chief of operations, or deputy chief of special operations may authorize the use of robots as a potentially deadly force option,” the SFPD stated in a press release about the assassination robots.

“The passage of this policy is a testament to the confidence Mayor Breed, the Board of Supervisors, and the people of San Francisco have in our department and our officers, and I am humbled by their overwhelming support,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott stated in a press release. “The use of robots in potentially deadly force situations is a last resort option. We live in a time when unthinkable mass violence is becoming more commonplace. We need the option to be able to save lives in the event we have that type of tragedy in our city,” he continued.

The San Francisco Public Defender’s office sent a letter to the board on November 28 stating that granting officers “the ability to kill community members remotely” goes against the city’s values and asked the board to reinstate language keeping officers from using robots in this manner, according to AP News.

The board debated this policy during its session on November 29.

The San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) current robots were acquired between 2010 and 2017. The department does not own or use robots outfitted with lethal force options and said it also has no plans to equip robots with any type of firearm. The current robots are primarily used in situations requiring officers to keep a safe distance.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who voted in favor of the policy, said he was troubled by rhetoric that portrayed the police department as untrustworthy and dangerous.

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Mary Ellen Bluntzer
Mary Ellen Bluntzer
3 months ago

There is a growing interest in the police looking more and more like an army. Why is that?

Reply to  Mary Ellen Bluntzer
3 months ago

It’s exactly what it’s called an assassination robot the only people ever assassinated are people speaking there truths and attempting to stand up for something they believe to be right.
Look at how the term assassinated was used in the past