The San Francisco Police Department has proposed a policy that would permit its military-style robots to employ lethal force when necessary and in other risky circumstances.
The draft policy describes how the San Francisco Police Department will employ its 17 remotely controlled, unarmed robots, which are frequently employed to disarm bombs and handle dangerous materials.
The proposed policy stipulates that “the robots described in this section shall not be deployed for any purpose other than training and simulations, apprehending criminals, critical occurrences, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant, or during suspicious device assessment.”
“The robots will only be used as a lethal option when the risk of death to members of the public or officers outweighs all other forms of force that the San Francisco Police Department has at its disposal.”
Per the department, only 12 of the 17 robots the San Francisco Police Department has are functional at this point.
According to a police spokesperson, the agency has always been able to use lethal force when the risk of officer or public fatalities is great enough to preclude any other course of action.
Officer Eve Laokwansathitaya said in a statement to the Verge that “the San Francisco Police Department does not have any form of precise plan in place as the unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where the San Francisco Police Department’s need to use deadly force via robot would be a rare and extraordinary situation.”
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The use of robots to deliver deadly force has been tried by another police department before. In 2016, the Dallas Police Department used a robot attached to a bomb to kill a suspect in a sting operation that claimed the lives of five police officers.
Additionally, the Oakland Police Department was considering the possibility of arming their robots. However, the leaders decided against it last month.