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San Francisco votes to allow police to deploy robots that kill

City supervisors in San Francisco on Tuesday voted to give police the ability to deploy potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations.

The move would allow officers to use ground-based robots to carry out deadly force “when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and officers cannot subdue the threat after using alternative force options or de-escalation tactics.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8 to 3 in favor of the highly-debated policy.

None of the police robots in San Francisco will have firearms attached, but they could be able to carry out deadly force in extreme situations, according to Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

“Under this policy, SFPD is authorized to use these robots 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,” he wrote on Twitter.

None of the robots in San Francisco will have firearms attached to them, but could be wired up to execute deadly force.
NBC San Francisco

Mandelman threw his support behind the policy and its “reasonable restrictions,” but others, including three city supervisors, have been vocal about how they feel the policy puts the community at risk.

“Beyond disappointed that the Board seems poised to allow SFPD to use weaponized robots to use force against human beings. Only 4 of us clearly against. Shortsighted, dangerous, sad. The spirit of the SF I have always admired is weeping today,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said.

Board President Shamann Walton, who voted against the proposal, said he wasn’t anti-police but “pro people of color.”

San francisco robots
The proposal passed the city supervisors in an 8-3 vote Tuesday.
San Francisco Chronicle via Gett

“We continuously are being asked to do things in the name of increasing weaponry and opportunities for negative interaction between the police department and people of color,” he said. “This is just one of those things.”

Supervisor Connie Chan said she understood the concerns over use of force but “according to state law, we are required to approve the use of these equipment. So here we are, and it’s definitely not an easy discussion.

The proposal was amended Tuesday to specify that officers could only utilize the robots after trying alternative force or de-escalation tactics. The department will also limit how many high-ranking officers will have the authorization to use the robots as a deadly force option.

San Francisco PD Assistant Chief David Lazar speaks at a hearing on the robots.
San Francisco PD Assistant Chief David Lazar speaks at a hearing on the robots.
NBC San Francisco

San Francisco’s police department currently has a dozen ground robots that are used to assess bombs or provide eyes in low visibility situations. The department acquired the robots between 2010 and 2017 and have never been used to deliver an explosive device, according to officials.

A state law that went into effect this year now requires police departments to inventory military-grade equipment, like the robots, and seek approval for their use.

The measure must pass a second vote at a meeting next week and be approved by the mayor before becoming a city law.

With Post wires.

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