Robots in San Francisco could be allowed to use ‘deadly force’

The draft policy will face the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on November 29 (Photo: Shutterstock ID)

In a bitter turn of events, the San Francisco Police Department is considering giving robots a license to kill.

Last week, the San Francisco Rules Committee unanimously approved a version of a draft policy stating that robots can 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 option of force.”

Members of the city’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee have been reviewing the new policy for several weeks, as reported by Mission Local.

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The original version did not mention bots until Aaron Peskin, dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, initially added that “bots may not be used to use force against anyone.”

However, the SFPD modified Peskin’s addition and replaced it with a line that could give bots the power to kill suspects if public or police lives are in danger.


Robot makers such as Boston Dynamics have signed a pledge not to weaponize their robots (Image: Getty Images)

According to Mission Local, Peskin ultimately decided to accept the change because “there can be scenarios where the deployment of lethal force is the only option.”

The Equipment Policy states that the SFPD currently has 17 remotely piloted robots, of which only 12 are operational.

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In addition to giving bots the ability to use deadly force, the proposal also authorizes their use for “training and simulation, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, and the enforcement of a judicial order or during suspicious device evaluations.”

While most of the robots included in the SFPD inventory are primarily used to defuse bombs or handle hazardous materials, newer models have an optional weapon system.

The department’s QinetiQ Talon can also be modified to carry different weapons – an armed version of the droid is currently used by the US Army and can be equipped with grenade launchers, machine guns or even a .50 caliber anti-material rifle.

The draft policy will face the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on November 29.

A report last month revealed that the Oakland Police Department in California is also considering allowing robots equipped with guns to use deadly force.

Shortly after the report was released, the Oakland Police Department announced on Facebook that it had decided not to add “remotely armed vehicles to the department.”

Earlier this year, some bot makers like Boston Dynamics signed a pledge not to weaponize their bots.

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