The Morning After: San Francisco reverses approval of lethal police robots

The Board of Supervisors eventually voted to ban them.

Europa Press News via Getty Images

In November, the San Francisco Police Department proposed approving the use of remote-controlled robots with deadly force. This was after a law came into effect requiring California officials to define the authorized use of military-grade equipment. It would have allowed police to equip robots with explosives "to contact, incapacitate or disorient violent, armed or dangerous suspects."

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved this proposal, initially, despite opposition by civil rights groups. However, during the second of two required votes, the board voted to ban the use of lethal force by police robots. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this is unusual as the board's second votes typically echo the first results. In the initial proposal, authorities could only use the robots for lethal force after they've exhausted all other possibilities, and a high-ranking official would have to approve their deployment.

Dean Preston, a supervisor who opposes the use of robots as deadly force, said the policy will "place Black and brown people in disproportionate danger of harm or death." In a subsequent statement, Preston said: "There have been more killings at the hands of police than any other year on record nationwide. We should be working on ways to decrease the use of force by local law enforcement, not giving them new tools to kill people."

– Mat Smith

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