We talked about killerrobots. The piece was inspired by a proposal that would allow San Francisco police to use robots for killing when there is a risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers. The proposal was approved by the city's board of supervisors.
The new law enforcement equipment policy was filed by the San Francisco Police Department in response to California Assembly Bill 481, which requires a written inventory of military equipment used by law enforcement. Among other things, the document submitted to the board of supervisors includes an armored vehicle, flash-bang grenades, and sub machine guns.
There are 12 fully functioning robots that are named in the inventory. They aren't designed for killing. Police departments have been using them to detect and dispose of bombs for a long time. In order to save the lives of officers or the public, the language in the proposal allows for the killing ofrobots.
The proposal seems to be in line with the definition of "justified" deadly force. Self-defense and cases where others are facing death or serious bodily harm are some of the circumstances in which police can shoot. Though a robot is not a gun, the 8-3 vote effectively approves the weaponization of the robot in these sorts of cases.
Robots equipped in this way would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent innocent lives. To contact, incapacitate, or disorient a violent, armed or dangerous suspect, a robot could be armed with explosives.
The purpose for which theserobots were built and acquired appears to be at odds with such applications. There are precedents for this. The Dallas Police Department killed a suspect using a robot armed with a bomb for the first time in U.S. history. Police chief David Brown told the press after the incident that they used a bomb robot and placed a device on its extension to blow up the suspect.
It is easy to see how such language could allow for the acquisition of systems that are weaponized out of the box. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 has led to more police use of military equipment. The military can transfer excess personal property to support law enforcement for the purpose of drug enforcement. According to Maxie, the SFPD doesn't have any plans to shoot at robots.
The use of armedrobots was warned of by the Electronic Frontier Foundation last year.
Time and time again, technologies given to police to use only in the most extreme circumstances make their way onto streets during protests or to respond to petty crime. For example, cell site simulators (often called “Stingrays”) were developed for use in foreign battlefields, brought home in the name of fighting “terrorism,” then used by law enforcement to catch immigrants and a man who stole $57 worth of food. Likewise, police have targeted BLM protesters with face surveillance and Amazon Ring doorbell cameras.
San Francisco is seen as one of America's most liberal cities. The debate lasted more than 2 hours. It comes at a time when politicians on the left are worried about appearing hostile towards police.
When progressives and progressive policies start looking to the public like they are against police, there are larger questions raised. That is not good for progressives. I don't think it's good for this board. I don't think it's good for Democrats around the country.
The chair of the Board of Supervisors tried to insert language condemning the use of robots for killing. According to reports, the line "Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person" was changed by the SFPD.
There was a battle last month in Oakland. Their debate ended in a different way. The police department wrote.
The Oakland Police Department (OPD) is not adding armed remote vehicles to the department. OPD did take part in ad hoc committee discussions with the Oakland Police Commission and community members to explore all possible uses for the vehicle. However, after further discussions with the Chief and the Executive Team, the department decided it no longer wanted to explore that particular option.
The president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors warned against the impact of the proposal. He said that the police department was being asked to do things in the name of increasing weaponry and opportunities for negative interaction between the police department and people of color. It's just one of those things.