As if the unease towards police forces — emphasis on forces — across the US wasn’t bad enough. On Noember 29th, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a motion to give SFPD access to robots authorized in the use of deadly force. Don’t worry, guns aren’t authorized. Explosive ordinance, however, is. Because nothing says “protect and serve” like exploding robots.
There are many who are vehemently against this decision. City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman claims their use would only be “to carry out deadly force in extremely limited situations when risk to loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available.” But for many, the terms for deploying these bots is too vague.
California law requires police and sheriff departments to inventory and request approval for military grade equipment. But that the vote was in favor of the robots is disappointing. Especially in a city as progressive as San Francisco. According to Allison Maxie, SFPD spokesperson, use of these robots would only be in the most extreme situations. With the purpose “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect(s).”
Despite “reassurance”, the policy is open-ended as to what these bots can be equipped with. Which means a lot of dangerous options are available. Police departments don’t need further militarization. Officer aggression is at an all-time high. And reports of brutality and excessive force are a near daily occurrence. Some officers can’t even be trusted to do their jobs, chasing Pokémon instead. What police need is better training for de-escalation and neutralization, first and foremost.
Update on Status of the Motion
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors have voted to ban the use of robots for deadly force. For now. The decision was made after severe outcry over the passing of the motion. It’s decided that more time is needed to iron out the terms of when and how these robots are used. The supervisors concerned and opposed to the motion stated they didn’t believe the public was given the chance to discuss the motion before it was voted on. But it’s still just a temporary hold on the motion and needs one more vote to take effect. At least this pause will allow further discussion from the populous as to whether they want bomb-toting robots in their city.