Police in this US city could get 'killer robots' as early as next week

Updated on Dec 01, 2022 05:01 PM IST

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) already has some robotic helpers, including those used for bomb disposal.

A San Francisco police officer stands guard in front of the home of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on October 28, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)
A San Francisco police officer stands guard in front of the home of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on October 28, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

San Francisco police are now one step closer to using deadly force 'when risk of loss of life to the public or officers is imminent' and when such threats cannot be de-escalated or countered by traditional measures.

The Washington Post said Wednesday this permission was granted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and means police can now effectively use robots to kill, for example, an active shooter that they cannot subdue by another tactic.

According to the report, the proposal must pass a second vote (to be held next week) and be signed off by Mayor London Breed before it becomes city law.

'Killer robots' made headlines in the US six years ago; an active shooter situation was resolved after a robotic arm detonated explosives near him.

In San Francisco, the initial proposal did not include permitting lethal force but that was written into the text at the request of the city police department.

The Post reported one of three senior officers must authorise this extreme act.

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) already has some robotic helpers, including those used for bomb disposal. All of these are remotely piloted.

It does not have armed robots, a spokesperson told The Post.

The meeting to pass this measure proved to be a heated one, with some, like board president Shamann Walton concerned it could become another method to target people of colour. "I'm just really stunned we're talking about this at all..."

Predictably, though, law enforcement feels different. An ex Los Angeles police officer citing the same Texas incident to tell The Post 'it would be an option'.

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