SF Considers Allowing Police to Use Armed Robots to Kill
By Kiley Russell, Bay City News Foundation
A day before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to take a final vote on a policy allowing police to deploy armed robots, opponents gathered at City Hall to decry the decision.
Lead by supervisors Dean Preston, Hillary Ronen and Board President Shamann Walton, the group included representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, SF Black Wall Street and SEIU 1021. “There is no way that I am going to sit by silently and allow a policy as dangerous and as reckless as this to be adopted and to go into effect in the City and County of San Francisco,” Preston said Monday during a rally on the Polk Street steps of City Hall. “We will fight this legislatively at the board, will fight this in the streets and on public opinion and if necessary we will fight this at the ballot,” Preston said.
At its meeting last week, the board voted 8 – 3 to approve the policy that would allow police to use robots as a “deadly force option” under certain circumstances. San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said the department has no plans to outfit robots with firearms but could use them to deliver explosives to “breach a structure” or “to incapacitate or disorient a violent, armed, or dangerous subject.”
“The use of robots in potentially deadly force situations is a last resort option,” Scott said in a news release. “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.”
A final vote on the policy, which has attracted worldwide media attention, is scheduled for Tuesday and opponents are urging the supervisors who approved it to reconsider their votes. In addition to objecting to the use of “killer robots” on the grounds that they could be misused and would make it easier for police to kill people, among other things, opponents on Monday said San Francisco police failed to give the required 30-day notice to the public prior to Tuesday’s vote.
“Because there wasn’t any notice that this extremely dangerous policy was going to be thrust upon us last minute, we still have hundreds of unanswered questions about the use of killer robots,” Ronen said.
Ronen questioned the ethics of “a machine on the streets of San Francisco being armed and ready to kill human beings,” expressed skepticism about whether the robots were designed for such a purpose and asked about the kind of training, if any, police have had to use them in this way.
“We don’t even have basic information to make this decision,” she said.
The board’s meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, December 6, 2022.
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