San Francisco votes on deadly force for police robots • The Register

Next week, the San Francisco board of directors is expected to vote on a proposed policy that will allow the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to use robots authorized to kill people.

No such use is currently planned, according to the SFPD, which described the policy proposal as affirming continued use of robotic systems it has acquired over the past eight years.

The proposal addresses California Convention Bill 481, which would require law enforcement agencies to obtain authorization from an appropriate legislative body for the use of military equipment.

To comply with state law, the SFPD has developed a draft policy supporting the use of military-style gear and has sought the blessing of city regulators. A vote on whether to adopt the proposal at first reading is foreseen [PDF] for 29.11.

As Mission Local, a San Francisco news outlet, reported, Supervisor Aaron Peskin initially tried to exclude a lethal force option from the policy, but the SFPD deleted the line, which he added: “Robots are not to be used as an act of violence against any person.” “

In its place, the policy now states: “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when the risk of death of members of the public or officials is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to the SFPD.”

Peskin did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Mission Local that the SFPD had argued there might be scenarios where deadly force was the only viable option.

When asked why this policy change is necessary, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department said The registry in an email:

The robots identified in the draft policy include various remote-controlled robots designed for heavy object handling, wall breaching, ordnance disposal, reconnaissance and surveillance. These include: Remotec models F5A, 6A and RONS; QinetiQ Talon and Dragon Runner; IRobot FirstLook; and ReconRobotics Recon Scout ThrowBot.

None of these units are designed to carry firearms – a scenario contemplated and then abandoned by the Oakland Police Department – but at least some of them can be used to kill.

For example, in 2016, Dallas Police Department attached a pound of C4 explosives to a Northrop Grumman Remotec Androx Mark V A-1 robot and steered the robot towards a wall, which a sniper – who killed two officers and injured others – used concealment . Police then detonated the explosives, which destroyed the wall and killed the suspect, with only minor damage to the arm of the $151,000 robot.

Given a robotic inventory of mostly bomb disposal bots and the fact that these are controlled by a remote human operator, it’s unlikely that SFPD policing will change significantly with a robot lethal force option.

Back in 2016, after the robot blew up the Dallas sniper, Joe Eskenazi wrote in San Francisco Magazine, “Deploying a killer robot is crossing a legal and technological Rubicon.”

That’s yet to happen in San Francisco because these robots won’t execute kill orders autonomously without a human operator on the loop — Force Policy language applies to “remotely operated unmanned machines.”[s]”. The robots of the SFPD are therefore not autonomous killer robots, but rather teleoperated tools. When used to inflict harm, such incidents, like any use of force, should be evaluated for appropriateness.

As for actual self-guided killer robots, if and when such devices become a practical and politically plausible option for US law enforcement, their appearance will create a more significant legal and technical transition. Meanwhile, try not to die at the hands of an automated car. ® San Francisco votes on deadly force for police robots • The Register

Rick Schindler

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