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San Francisco supervisors voted Tuesday to put the brakes on a controversial policy that could allow Police use robots for deadly forceReversing course came just days after the plan’s approval prompted fierce pushback and warnings about the militarization and automation of policing.

The board of supervisors voted unanimously to explicitly ban the use of robots in this way for now. But he sent the issue back to a committee for further discussion and may vote in future to allow police to use robots in a non-lethal manner in limited cases.

Board voted last week Allowing the use of lethal robots in extreme circumstances. The police department said it has no plans to equip the robots with guns, but does want the ability to plant explosives on them and then use them to approach, incapacitate or disorient dangerous or armed suspects when life is at stake. is at risk.

The initial vote pushed the famously liberal city into the center of a debate about technology and the future of policing, with some saying the robots were a step too close to being seen in a dystopian science fiction movie. Although robotic technology has become more widely available for policing, departments across the country have rarely used it to confront or kill suspects.

Three supervisors who rejected the policy from the outset joined dozens of protesters outside City Hall urging the board to change course. They chanted slogans and carried signs with phrases such as “We all saw that movie… no killer robots”.

san francisco police killer robot
People attend a demonstration about the use of robots by the San Francisco Police Department outside City Hall in San Francisco, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.

Jeff Chiu / AP


Supervisor Dean Preston was among them, and on Tuesday he told his colleagues that the public had not been given enough time to express their concerns about such a serious issue.

“The people of San Francisco have said loud and clear: there is no place for killer police robots in our city,” he said in a statement after the vote. “We should be working on ways to reduce the use of force by local law enforcement, not give them new tools to kill people.”

The vote was the result of a new state law that requires police departments to inventory and seek explicit approval for their use of equipment, including certain guns, grenades, armored vehicles and battering rams. So far, only San Francisco and Oakland have discussed lethal robots as part of that legislation. Oakland police wanted to equip the robot with a shotgun, but faced public opposition, opting instead for pepper spray.

Some San Francisco officials wanted to proceed with allowing robots to use deadly force in some cases, arguing that nothing had changed to warrant a reversal. But the vote passed unanimously to advance a comprehensive police equipment policy, including a ban on the lethal robots.

It still allows police to use robots to investigate potentially dangerous scenes so officers can stay behind.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said, “There are robots that have eyes and ears and can disarm bombs, which happens from time to time, we want the police department to do that while we continue to have this very controversial discussion.” Huh.” The week’s momentum around the use of robots.

The new policy needs one more vote to take effect.

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