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San Francisco Police seek permit to use killer robots

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A US officer loads a Remotec F5A robot at an exhibition showing police capabilities in Cleveland, Ohio, July 14, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)

In the US state of California, the San Francisco Police Department (SFDP) has sought permission from city officials to deploy lethal robots against human suspects in certain dire situations with no "option".

US media reports said on Wednesday that a policy proposal report sent to San Francisco city officials showed how the SFPD plans to use all of its military-style equipment.

In the report, the SFPD wrote that “robots will only be used as a deadly force option when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”

However, city supervisors disagreed with the police proposal, inserting a line stating that “robots shall not be used as a use of force against any person.” In turn, when the documents went back to the SFPD for review, the police ignored the line stated by city supervisors and returned the text again to its original version for their final approval.

Mission Local, a San Francisco-based news site, published the documents on Tuesday. And,  Aaron Peskin, who chairs the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee, told the news site that he had stated the line banning lethal force.

Peskin admitted that he eventually approved the SFPD’s original proposal to use robot cops to kill humans because “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.”

In addition to granting robots the ability to use deadly force, the proposal also authorizes them for use in “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments,” local media noted.

Peskin added, however, that the entire board will hold a final vote on the SFPD’s proposals next Tuesday.

Last month, Oakland’s police removed language from a similar document reported to city’s officials for approval that would have given the department permission to use robots to kill human suspects. Police departments across the entire state of California are submitting similar policy documents to their cities, as a state law passed last year that requires them to report their stocks of military-grade equipment, and set out the situations in which the equipment in their arsenal can best be used.

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According to the SFPD’s report, the department currently has 17 remotely piloted robots, of which only 12 are still in working condition.

The SFPD’s robots are designed to enter buildings, handle hazardous materials, detonate explosive devices and survey inaccessible areas.

In 2016, the Dallas Police Department strapped plastic explosives to a bomb-disposal bot and used it to kill a sniper who had shot five officers. The SFPD currently has the same robot, the Remotec F5A, in its arsenal.


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