San Francisco rethinks policy on police using killer robots

San Francisco has hit pause on a policy that would allow police officers to use “killer robots” in certain situations that pose a threat to human life.

The controversial plans were initially greenlighted last week by San Francisco’s board of supervisors in a 8-3 vote, sparking a backlash from local residents and activist groups alike. The new policy would essentially permit the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to place explosives on the 17 robots it holds in its possession (though apparently only 12 of these are “fully functioning”) to remotely neutralize “imminent” threats to police officers or members of the public.

The exact wording read:

The robots listed in this section shall not be utilized outside of training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments. Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.

It’s worth noting that this specific use of “deadly force” by robots has hitherto not been specifically banned or approved in San Francisco. But by formally codifying such use in law, it was feared that this could escalate and normalize the use of such technology in the future.


Hilary Ronen was one of three supervisors who voted against these plans last week, and following yesterday’s vote which reversed the original decision, Ronen said that “common sense prevailed.”

We just stopped the use of killer robots robots in SF. Complete reversal from last week. Common sense prevailed.

— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) December 6, 2022

However, it is worth noting that the reversal might only be temporary. The issue has been sent back to a committee for more discussion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and it will require a further vote to boot the proposal out permanently.

San Francisco rethinks policy on police using killer robots by Paul Sawers originally published on TechCrunch

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