San Francisco Police Department Proposes New Policy Allowing Robots to Kill, as previously reported by Mission Local (through engaged). The design policyoutlining how the SFPD can use military-style weapons states that robots “may be used as a lethal force option when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option.”
As reported by Mission Local, members of the city’s board of trustees rules committee spent several weeks reviewing the new equipment policy. The original version of the draft contained no language about the use of deadly force by robots, until Aaron Peskin, the dean of the city’s board of supervisors, initially added that “robots should not be used as a use of force against a person. ”
However, the SFPD returned the draft with a red line delete the addition of Peskin and replace it with the rule that gives robots the power to kill suspects. According to Mission Local, Peskin ultimately decided to accept the change because “there may be scenarios where the use of lethal force was the only option.” San Francisco Rules Commission unanimously approved a version of last week’s draft, which will be presented to the Supervisory Board on 29 November.
As outlined in the equipment policy, the SFPD currently has 17 remote-controlled robots, but only 12 are functioning. The proposal not only gives robots the ability to use lethal force, but also allows them for use in “training and simulations, criminal arrests, 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 handling hazardous materials, newer Remotec models have an optional weapon system and the department’s existing F5A has a tool called the PAN disruptor that can load 12-gauge shotgun shells. It is usually used to detonate bombs from a distance. The department’s QinetiQ Talon can also be modified to hold a variety of weapons – a weaponized version of the robot is currently used by the US military and can rest grenade launchers, machine guns or even a .50 caliber anti-materiel rifle.
“SFPD’s need to deliver lethal force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance”
“SFPD has always had the option to use deadly force when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other available force option,” said SFPD officer Eve Laokwansathitaya, in a statement to The edge. “SFPD has no specific plan, as the unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations that require SFPD to deliver deadly force via robot are a rare and exceptional circumstance.”
In 2016, the Dallas Police Department first used a robot to perform lethal force. It used a bomb-disposal robot — the same Remotec F5A model owned by the SFPD — armed with an explosive device to kill a suspect who shot and killed five police officers and wounded several others. At the time, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the department saw “no option but to use our bomb robot and put a device on the extension so it could explode where the suspect was.”
Last month, a report of The interception revealed that the Oakland Police Department in California was also considering using shotgun-equipped Remotec F5A robots to use deadly force. Shortly after the report came out, the Oakland PD announced on Facebook it decided not to add “remote armed vehicles” to the department. Meanwhile, a group of robot makers, including Boston Dynamics, signed a pledge earlier this year not to arm their robots.