San Francisco police want permission to use robots with lethal force

The San Francisco Police Department has requested the use of robots capable of “lethal force” in high-risk scenarios.

A policy paper obtained by The Verge document showed the department’s plan for its platoon of 17 robots going forward.

Under the proposal, the department plans to use them for “training and simulations, criminal arrests, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant, or during suspicious device assessments.”

The US military has already deployed robots that can load and fire weapons in combat, including grenade launchers.

Police suggest using lethal force by the robots “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,” claiming the terrifying new technology would help officers with “ground support and situational awareness”.

According to US reports, the original version of the draft did not specify the use of deadly force until a member of the city’s board of supervisors said “robots should not be used as a use of force against a person”.

The document has been approved by the Rules Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is currently awaiting the full board’s decision next week.

A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department said police had “no specific plan,” and claimed the use of deadly force would be “rare and exceptional.”

It came after Western Australia introduced a similar police robot in 2022. The four-legged machine, called “Spot”.

The machine’s “handler,” Blair Moulton, said the technology was “intuitive” and would give agents access to places less sophisticated robots can’t go.

“Using a four-legged system allows it to move across different terrains, which is off-limits for track or wheeled robots,” he said.

The world’s first operational police robot was deployed in Dubai in 2017.

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