The San Francisco police department has proposed that it be allowed to use robots with “deadly force” while responding to incidents, according to a policy draft..
The document outlines how the department proposes to use its collection of robots, which number 17 in total although 12 are not operational.
The remote-controlled devices are generally used for area inspection and bomb disposal, a police spokesperson told Mission Local. The department wants to use them for “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments”, according to the proposal.
The department’s newer Remotec model robots have an optional weapons system, according to the Verge, and its model F5A can load shotgun shells often used in bomb detonation. The QinetiQ Talon, too, can be weaponized. A model in use by the US army can be modified to add machine guns and grenade launchers, according to the site.
The SFPD proposal would allow these robots to kill people “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 said giving robots the ability to kill would assist officers with “ground support and situational awareness”.
According to the Verge, the original version of the draft did not mention deadly force until a member of the city’s board of supervisors added that “robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person”.
The department struck the phrase out and rephrased it to the statement justifying deadly force in the face of imminent danger and lack of other options, according to Mission Local.
A version of the document has been approved by the board of supervisors’ rules committee. It awaits the decision of the full board next week.
The SFPD did not immediately respond to questions from the Guardian. A department spokesperson told the Verge that it did not currently have “any sort of specific plan in place” regarding the robots’ use of deadly force as they deem a circumstance that would require such force to be “rare and exceptional”.