Policy to allow S.F. police robots to use lethal force up for vote
The draft policy's advancement prompted an outcry; the vote is scheduled for Nov. 29
By Eric Ting
SAN FRANCISCO — A new draft policy would, for the first time, allow the San Francisco Police Department's robots to use lethal force against suspects as a last-resort option.
Mission Local first reported that the Law Enforcement Use of Equipment Policy, which is scheduled to be voted on by the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors next week, was originally silent on whether the department's 17 remote-controlled robots could use lethal force. Supervisor Aaron Peskin then added a line reading, "Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person," but an SFPD revision changed that language to "Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available to SFPD."
Peskin ultimately voted to advance the draft policy to the full board, telling Mission Local that the police argued "there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option." SFPD did not immediately respond to an SFGATE request for comment.
The draft policy's advancement prompted an outcry from civil liberties groups and activists.
"You've got to be kidding," tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union's Northern California chapter.
After police in Dallas used a robot to kill a man who shot five police officers in 2016, Jay Stanley, an ACLU policy analyst, wrote a blog post outlining concerns with allowing police robots using lethal force.
"Our biggest concern is that armed robots will be over-used," he wrote. "As robots allow deadly force to be applied more easily and with less risk to police officers, and as they get cheaper and more commonplace, there is a risk that they will turn into yet another avenue for abusive behavior by some in law enforcement."
In Oakland, a similar push to allow robots to use lethal force was met with backlash and subsequently abandoned.
The full board vote on the policy is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29.
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