San Francisco Ends Explosive Killer Cop Bots • The Register

San Francisco lawmakers this week reversed the course of its killer-robot policy, barring police from using remote-controlled bots equipped with explosives. For now.

On Tuesday, after massive public backlash and global media attention, the city’s board of directors voted unanimously to specifically ban deadly force by police robots. Under a previously approved policy, SF police robots could have used explosives to kill suspects under human control. The droids were not allowed to use weapons.

The board approved this approach on November 29 by a vote of 8 to 3. It would have allowed police officers to use demolition robots “as a lethal force option when the risk of death of members of the public or officials is imminent and outweighs any other coercive SFPD option available.”

However, regulators reversed that decision and sent the deadly robot stipulation back to the city’s rules committee for further debate. This body can decide to revise the policy. If the committee doesn’t move forward with the proposal and drop the matter, it could face a total ban on deadly police robots. If the committee revises the rules, the board will vote again. So far, there seems to be little appetite for allowing cops to use bots that explode or shoot.

“This fight isn’t over, but we’re grateful that the board has specifically banned deadly force police robots,” San Francisco supervisor Dean Preston said in a statement following Tuesday’s decision to return the policy to the drawing board send.

Preston was one of three elected officials who voted against the killer robot policy late last month. “I urge my colleagues to heed the strong backlash and ensure that these harmful policies are never approved – not today, not tomorrow, never,” he added.

The point here is to neutralize a threat by equipping a robot with a lethal option as a last-case scenario

In a statement to The registry, SFPD chief William Scott argued that at some point a situation bad enough to justify the use of deadly droids could arise. “Part of our job is preparing for the unthinkable – and not preparing for the unthinkable would be irresponsible,” he said. “We cannot be constrained on how to respond if the worst-case scenario occurs in San Francisco.

“This story has been warped and the narrative that is being pushed detracts from the real issue, which is having the tools necessary to prevent the loss of innocent life in an active shooter or mass casualty incident.

“We want to use our robots to save lives – not take them. Of course, it’s about neutralizing a threat by giving a lethal option to a robot as a last scenario, not about sending an officer on a suicide mission.”

The police department owns 17 robots, all of which they bought before January 2022. Since then, the SFPD “has not faced a situation requiring the use of deadly force,” officer Robert Rueca said in a previous email The registry.

Welcome in the future

This type of situation occurred in Dallas, where a mass shooting in July 2016 killed five police officers and injured another 11 people. After cornering the suspect at a local building, police attached an explosive charge to a bomb disposal robot, which detonated near the suspect, killing him.

San Francisco’s past stance on killer robots sparked protests outside City Hall on Monday. Also on Monday, more than 40 community organizations, including the ACLU and EFF, signed a letter urging regulators to scrap the policy.

After the board changed course on Tuesday, EFF policy analyst Matthew Guariglia said the internet users’ rights group was “very happy” with the ban on killer robots. “This is a big step forward for a style of sound governance where we know security theater doesn’t actually make San Francisco safer,” he said The registry.

“Next we have to see when and if the rules committee will take up the issue of police robots,” he added. “I sincerely hope that after careful consideration and a period of public comment, the Rules Committee decides that it should not repeal the current policy and that lethal force by police robots should remain banned in San Francisco.” ® San Francisco Ends Explosive Killer Cop Bots • The Register

Rick Schindler

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