San Francisco: Use of lethal police robots approved

SAN FRANCISCO –

Supervisors in San Francisco approved on Tuesday giving the city the ability to use potentially lethal and remote-controlled robots in emergency situations, after a passionate debate that reflected divisions in the politically liberal board over support for the police force.

Voting 8-3, the majority agreed to give police the option over strong objections from civil liberties and police oversight groups.

Opponents said the authority could lead to further militarization of a police force that already cracks down on poor and minority communities.

Supervisor Connie Chan, a member of the committee that presented the proposal to the full board, said she understood the concerns about the use of force, but “under state law, we are required to approve the use of this equipment. So here we are, and it’s definitely not an easy discussion.»

The San Francisco Police Department said it does not have armed robots and has no plans to arm them.

However, the department could deploy robots equipped with explosive charges «to directly engage, incapacitate or disorient armed, violent or dangerous suspects» when lives are in danger, Police Department spokeswoman Allison Maxie said in a statement.