The measure is cause for concern: during its last session the Boards of Supervisors Rules Committee — the equivalent of the San Francisco City Council — concluded several weeks of reviewing the city’s police needs. But a series of decisions led to validating the possibility for local law enforcement agencies to acquire killer robots and use them in certain cases.
Initially, the first version of the document contained no reference to killer robots. But the president of Board of SupervisorsAaron Peskin, wanted to add a paragraph emphasizing that “robots could not in any way use force against any person”. An amendment not only rejected by the management of the police of San Francisco, but replaced by another which precisely authorizes the police to use robots capable of killing.
San Francisco Police don’t see the problem with killer robots
Aaron Peskin reportedly finally sided with the city police because there could be “cases in which the deployment of lethal force is the only option”. In addition to this, law enforcement will be able to use these robots in a wider range of situations. Since then, the measure has taken a new step towards its final adoption. The final vote will take place on November 29, 2022.
San Francisco police already use robots in their operations, although they don’t currently have lethal devices. According to the latest inventory, the police had 17 units, of which only 12 are actually in service. Most of these robots are actually deployed in dangerous situations, such as demining, or handling hazardous substances.
However, the latest models available to the authorities, manufactured by Remotec, can carry an optional weapon system. On the Remotec F5A, of which the San Francisco police have several units, one can thus, for example, mount a machine gun. The police also have QinetiQ Talons which can also be modified to carry firearms. The US Army is already using this model in theaters of operation.
For their part, the San Francisco police do not seem to see how this new amendment could cause the slightest problem: “San Francisco police always have the option to use lethal force when the risk of officers or members of the public losing their lives is imminent and prevails over all other coercive options available. The police have not yet planned a systematic case, because operations in which the SFPD is likely to use robots with lethal force are unusually dangerous or spontaneous and will therefore be a rare and exceptional circumstance”.