Public concerns about police violence and overreach have escalated in recent years among Americans of all political affiliations — and recent remarks from one major law enforcement agency in California is adding more fuel to the fire.
According to a document produced by the San Francisco Police Department, local officers have access to 17 unmanned robots that are capable of performing a range of law enforcement duties, up to and including the use of lethal force.
While a draft version of the agency’s policy signaled that the most common uses of the robotic devices would in training exercises and “criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessment,” the statement affirmed that the robots would be capable of killing suspects in certain situations.
“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,” the draft states.
In a related statement, SFPD spokesperson Eve Laokwansathitaya asserted that the department “does not have any sort of specific plan in place as the unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”
Such vague reassurances did little to convince skeptics that the use of potentially lethal police robots is a good idea.
San Francisco, a city ruled by the compassionate left for 40 years is going to let robots kill its citizens.
— SierraWhiskey (@SierraWhiskey9) November 25, 2022
Attorney Tifanei Moyer of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco Bay Area, has been a vocal opponent of the plan.
“We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” she said. “No legal professional or ordinary resident should carry on as if it is normal.”
Similar proposals have been discussed in other jurisdictions, including in Dallas, Texas, where a military-style robot was used to kill a suspected shooter in 2016.
Elsewhere in California, the Oakland Police Department ultimately ditched their plans to begin using armed robots in certain police activities.
“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,” the agency confirmed last month. “However, after further discussions with the Chief and the Executive Team, the department decided it no longer wanted to explore that particular option.”