License to kill for San Francisco police robots? Twitter reacts

BASIC POINTS

  • Peskin said he tried to limit police authority over the use of robots in the original plan
  • A lawyer said the use of robots in police was not ‘normal’
  • One Twitter user said the idea of ​​robots in the force “will not end well”

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) wants government permission to use robots “as a lethal force option,” and supporters and Twitter users are expressing opposition to the proposal.

“Robots will be used as a lethal force option only when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to the SFPD,” the draft policy said.

The policy went on to explain that “only designated operators who have completed the required training will be allowed to operate the robots,” adding that those operators must “complete the FBI’s 6-week Hazardous Device School prior to [operating] the robots”.

An earlier version of the draft policy was unanimously accepted by the Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee in San Francisco, according to Mission Local, which first reported the news.

Superintendent Aaron Peskin said he tried to limit police authority over the use of robots when he added “Robots shall not be used as a use of force against any person” in the original draft, but that the SFPD crossed out that sentence with a red line. according to Mission Local.

Advocates and observers are now raising concerns about the potential consequences of police use of robots.

“This is not normal. No legal professional or ordinary resident should continue as if it is normal,” Tifanei Moyer, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco Bay Area Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, told Mission Local via email.

“We’re living in a dystopian future where we’re debating whether police can use robots to execute citizens without trial, jury or judge,” Moyer said.

Necrosoft Games director and writer Brandon Sheffield tweeted his thoughts on the matter, stating that the approval of “killer bots” for police use “has almost always been the endgame for robots in policing.”

In responses to tweets by The Verge and KRON4 about the proposal, Twitter users have also noted that the draft policy, if passed, “will not end well.”

After the initial draft is approved, the proposal will go to the full Board of Supervisors on Nov. 29 for a final reading and vote.

The draft policy to be voted on by politicians next week said the robots “shall not be used outside of training and simulations, criminal arrests, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, warrant execution, or during suspicious device evaluations,” but it is unclear which specific situations will require the development of robots.

The SFPD isn’t the first to propose using robots in the field. Last month, Oakland police reportedly pushed to use shotgun-wielding robots in certain emergency situations, The Intercept reported.

Shortly after the report was published, the Oakland Police Department shared on Facebook that they are “not adding armed remotes to the department.”

Australia's terrorist drone
Police officers wearing body armor walk a robot towards the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place in central Sydney, December 16, 2014.
Reuters/Jason Reed

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