San Francisco Police Department wants to use robots to kill criminal suspects

san francisco police department wants to use robots to kill criminal suspects

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In a draft addressing the use of military weaponry, The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has struck out a line stating, “Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person,” according to the independent investigative news outlet Mission Local.

The line had initially been added to the draft by the city board of supervisor member Aaron Peskin. However, this newly revised draft may be voted on by the full board as early as November 29, the publication reported.

It would be the first such policy to allow extrajudicial killings by a police-operated robot or drone. Critics worry that the tech would allow police officers to use lethal force even though they can only view what’s happening on a TV monitor.

The SFPD currently has 12 functional, remote-controlled robots in its arsenal, though none have been used to attack anyone. They’re typically used to defuse bombs or provide surveillance in dangerous or inaccessible areas. However, tech experts worry that they could easily be weaponized and misused against marginalized communities.

SFPD spokesperson Office Robert Rueca said that the department “does not have any sort of specific plan in place” for lethal robots, and added, “The unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”

However, Tifanei Moyer, a senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, criticized the revised bill.

“We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” she wrote in an email to the aforementioned publication. “This is not normal. No legal professional or ordinary resident should carry on as if it is normal.”

The international civil rights group Human Rights Watch, the robot creators of Boston Dynamics, and other civil rights groups have written pleas asking the government not to approve the development or deployment of lethal robots.

At a United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons last year, the U.S, the UK, and Russia — three countries developing lethal robot tech — objected to a consensus governing the use of such bots.

The SFPD’s draft has also been criticized for allegedly excluding military-style assault rifles from a state audit requiring police departments to report their arsenal and its use against civilians.

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