The San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) draft policy, which is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors next week, calls for permission to deploy robots to kill suspects. This is reported by Yahoo News.
The new rules, which are supposed to define how the SFPD is allowed to use military-style weapons, were drafted by the police department itself. They have been scrutinized in recent weeks by Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman and Connie Chan, who sit on the Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee.
Committee Chairman Peskin sought to limit the SFPD’s authority to use robots and added a sentence in the vein of Isaac Asimov: “Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”
But the following week, the police crossed out his offer with a thick red line.
Instead, it was replaced with the following sentence, which allows police to use lethal force with robots: “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available to SFPD.” In fact, it is also similar to Asimov, but to the second part of the first law of robotics.
“The original policy that SFPD presented didn’t really address whether robots could use deadly force,” Peskin said. He added that he decided to approve the SFPD’s guidance because the department said “there may be scenarios where the use of deadly force is the only option.”
Lawyers who oppose police militarization are less certain.
“We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” said Tiffany Moyer, who heads the organization’s work on police misconduct and militarization. “This is not normal. No legal professional or ordinary resident should carry on as if it is normal.”
SFPD has 17 robots in its arsenal. According to police spokesman Robert Rueca, they were never used to attack anyone. The robots are controlled remotely and are typically used to investigate and defuse potential bombs or to surveil areas that are too inconvenient or dangerous for humans to access.
In 2016, the Dallas police force strapped plastic explosives to a robot and used it to blow up a sharpshooter who had killed five officers, in the first U.S. instance of a police robot killing a suspect. One of the SFPD’s robots, the Remotec F5A, is the same model used by the Dallas Police Department.
In addition, it is believed that one of the robotic sapper devices, the PAN Disruptor, can be loaded with a combat cartridge rather than a blank for remote detonation of mines.
The military has been using robots to kill for a long time, and now this question has also arisen regarding the police. Importantly, the decision to use a weapon, be it a conventional pistol, a rifle, or a robot, is still made by the police officer, and in this case, the robot is in no way different from any other weapon at the disposal of the police. That’s when the robots will start to decide on their own to open fire… Although, cyberpunk is already here, so there is not so much time left until that moment, as it seems.