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San Francisco Lawmakers To Vote On New Policy To Let Police Robots Use Deadly Force

San Francisco, CA – A newly-drafted police department policy proposal that would allow police robots to deploy deadly force will up go for a vote before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The newly-drafted policy was written by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and defines how exactly officers may use the military-style weapons that the department has in its arsenal, SFGate reported.

Ahead of the vote, the policy was closely scrutinized by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, made up of Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman and Connie Chan, according to Mission Local.

Critics were opposed to the draft policies on the use of robot force and the fact that hundreds of so-called “assault rifles” had been left off the department’s inventory of what it considered military-style weapons.

Peskin, the committee chair, initially tried to limit the department’s deployment of the robots, Mission Local reported.

“Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person,” Peskin added to the draft.

But the police department did not acquiesce to the chair’s suggestion and instead proposed an alternative use-of-force policy for the robots, Mission Local reported.

“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,” the draft policy read.

The issue has never been sorted out by San Francisco lawmakers before – use of force by robots is neither approved nor prohibited under the current SFPD policy, Mission Local reported.

“The original policy they submitted was actually silent on whether robots could deploy lethal force,” Peskin explained.

He said he only decided to approve the revised proposed policy because the police department had made the case that “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option,” according to Mission Local.

The rules committee unanimously approved the new draft proposal last week and the policy will go before the entire Board of Supervisors for a vote on Nov. 29.

SFPD currently has 17 robots, 12 of which are fully functional and can deploy deadly force, Mission Local reported.

SFPD Officer Robert Rueca said none of the department’s robots have ever been used to attack anyone.

Officer Rueca said the remote-controlled robots are typically used to investigate and defuse potential bombs, or to conduct surveillance in places too dangerous for officers, Mission Local reported.

The new draft policy said SFPD would use the robots for “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments.”

In extreme circumstances, the new policy permits SFPD to use the robots to kill a suspect, Mission Local reported.

Dallas police used an explosive device attached to a similar robot to kill the gunman who assassinated five police officers during a Black Lives Matter rally in December of 2016 after an hours long standoff, FOX News reported.

Authorities in nearby Oakland considered implementing armed robots on its police force last month but city leaders voted against the plan.

“The Oakland Police Department (OPD) is not adding armed remote vehicles to the department,” the police department said in a statement on Oct. 18. “OPD did take part in ad hoc committee discussions with the Oakland Police Commission and community members to explore all possible uses for the vehicle.”

“However, after further discussions with the Chief and the Executive Team, the department decided it no longer wanted to explore that particular option,” the statement read.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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