San Franciso Passes Law to Allow Police Officers to Use Deadly Remote Controlled Robots
San Francisco police can now access potentially deadly remote-controlled robots during emergencies.
The ACLU, San Francisco's public defender, and organizations that monitor the actions of the police had asked the 11-member body to reject the police's petition to utilize such technology.
According to the policy's critics, the remote robots would further militarize a police force already too forceful in dealing with underserved communities.
They further claimed the conditions under which use would be permitted were too nebulous. Supporters contended that having these robots was essential given the high-profile shootings occurring in the city.
A modification to the policy clarified that only senior officers would be authorized to use deadly force.
"I'm surprised that we're here in 2022," said Hilary Ronen on Tuesday. "We have seen a history of these leading to tragedy and destruction all over the world."
The San Francisco police department claimed that for eleven years, it had owned and employed robots for jobs like executing warrants but had no pre-armed robots or plans to do so.
According to Assistant Police Chief David Lazar of San Francisco, the agency might send out robots armed with explosive charges in instances involving active shooters and suicide bombers.
Lazar said, "We have it as a tool [we can use] if we have time, have secured the scene, and we weigh out if we want to risk lives or send a robot."
He then used the mass shooting in 2017 at a country music festival in Las Vegas to illustrate the circumstance that might call for using explosives-equipped robots.
Supervisors in disagreement claimed the reference to a mass tragedy was a fear tactic used to "rubber stamp" devices that might be unfairly applied to low-income Black and Latino people.
A San Francisco Chronicle investigation found that in 2020, Black residents were roughly six times more likely than white residents to be stopped by the police.
"I can't believe what I'm hearing ... these kinds of tools will deepen the disparities in inflicting deadly force on communities," said supervisor Dean Preston.
The proposed policy does not specify how the weapons can and cannot be equipped, leaving the possibility of arming them.
"Robots will only be used as a deadly force option 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," it says.
According to the new law, police and sheriff's departments must inventory and seek approval for military-grade equipment.
Between 2010 and 2017, San Fransico's police dept acquired a dozen working ground robots to assess bombs or provide eyes in low-visibility situations.
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