Last month the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) sought permission to use robots to kill criminals and other suspects (terms and conditions apply). At the beginning of December, that permission was granted. In the latest twist of this particular roller coaster, killer robots are no longer allowed to kill human beings in San Francisco.
No more killer robots
In a complete reversal, the Board of Supervisors just voted for a military equipment policy that bans police from using robots to kill. Thank you to all the residents and civil rights advocates who made their voices heard!
— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) December 6, 2022
The proposed “Law Enforcement Equipment Policy” always had to clear two hurdles in order to come into being. Extensive protests met the initial approval on 1 December, which may or may not have had an effect on the second vote.
The second vote, taken earlier this week, has put an end to the SFPD rolling out one of its bomb disposal robots and repurposing it as a bomb distribution robot.
Several civic groups opposed the policy prior to the repeal, saying that “SFPD’s proposal would allow officers to send these robots to all arrests and all searches with warrants, and to protests if police decide that ‘exigent circumstances’ or other flexible justifications in the policy apply”.
The cancellation is perhaps not that surprising. Sending a robot to end a human life is a much more considered position than a cop whipping out a gun to end a standoff (the latter of which is a different conversation entirely). Even if there’s a human remotely piloting the ‘bot, it may be a short step to switching to an autonomous system. Because that would be ‘more humane’ for human operators, who may feel guilt about killing another human being in such a calculated manner.
Source: ABC News