Last week the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) was looking to push through a new draft policy for the agency. In it, the SFPD sought permission to legally use robots to kill suspects. This week, the department attained that permission.
That doesn’t mean assassination-by-robot will become the SFPD’s preferred method of interacting with criminals. And suspected criminals. We hope. But it does open the door to robots being used to blow up particularly pesky perps. You know, just in case that’s a thing that’s needed.
Slow down, San Francisco
Last night, San Francisco’s board of supervisors approved the draft policy giving the cops permission to use robots to take out suspects “when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.” The approval was given following several hours of debate and numerous objections.
The SFPD itself says that it’s not planning on strapping any guns to existing robots, however. Those robots exist, but they mostly work for the military at the moment. If San Francisco’s cops do deploy an armed robot, it’ll look more like a bomb-disposal ‘bot. Only it’ll be holding a hand grenade, flashbang, or some other explosive device instead of a police-issue 9mm. The Remotec F5A is an example of one of these robots. The F5A already has one confirmed kill to its name, as it happens.
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According to SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie, “Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives”.
The fact remains that robots can now be used in parts of California to end human life. At present, those robots must be remote-controlled, so it’s still a human pulling the trigger. Or detonating the explosive, as it were. But it opens the door to more autonomous killings, once police departments get that capability. It also could spark a new sort of arms race. Career criminals, knowing they might go up against an explosive-toting robot, might well take steps to preempt that sort of intervention. Then the cops will have to upgrade and suddenly everyone owns a rocket launcher. As the prophecy foretold.