SF Police Department Tries (And Fails) To Ease Public Worries For ‘Dystopian’ Lethal Robots

Last week, the San Francisco police department submitted a petition to the city’s Board of Directions seeking permission to utilize robots for deadly force.

As one might imagine, this quickly worried the public. With many concerned about what this sort of deployment could morph into in the future.

Especially when considering the police department asked for this permission using vague language regarding scenarios that include “risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”

In other words, every “dangerous” situation.

From the Verge:

Aaron Peskin, the Dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, initially added that “robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”

However, the SFPD returned the draft with a red line crossing out Peskin’s addition, replacing it with the line that gives robots the authority to kill suspects.

After public outrage swept across the internet, the San Francisco police department issued a clarification; these robots would be carrying bombs, not guns.

From SFGate:

“The SFPD does not own or operate robots outfitted with lethal force options and the Department has no plans to outfit robots with any type of firearm,” spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement. 

“As an intermediate force option, robots could potentially be equipped with explosive charges to breach fortified structures containing violent, armed, or dangerous subjects or used to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect who pose a risk of loss of life to law enforcement or other first responders by use of any other method, approach, or contact.”

Maxie added, “While an explosive charge may be considered an intermediate force option, it could potentially cause injury or be lethal. Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives.”

In other words, these robots would be used as suicide bombers to take out criminals. How the San Francisco police department thought this so-called clarification would ease tensions is mind boggling.

More from the outlet:

The policy has faced strong criticism ahead of the Tuesday vote.

“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,” Tifanei Moyer of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area told Mission Local.

“We have to ask ourselves do we want to be in a society where police kill people with robots? It feels so deeply dehumanizing and militaristic,” Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law and information science professor, told NPR.

Others online are calling this future the San Francisco police department wants a dystopian nightmare. What could possibly go wrong?

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