Approval of Deadly Police Robots Put on Hold After San Francisco Officials' New Vote (UPDATE)

In a surprising turn of events, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to “explicitly ban the use of robots in such fashion for now," per the AP.

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UPDATED 12/6, 11:20 p.m. ET:In a turn of events, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to “explicitly ban the use of robots in such fashion for now,” the Associated Press reports.

“The people of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: There is no place for killer police robots in our city,” Supervisor Dean Preston stated after the vote. “We should be working on ways to decrease the use of force by local law enforcement, not giving them new tools to kill people.”

Preston was one of three opposing supervisors who protested outside City Hall on Monday among dozens of dissenting citizens.

“The new policy needs another vote to take effect,” the AP writes.

See original story below.

The San Francisco Police Department can now use killer robots armed with explosives.

According to CBS News, the city’s Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance Tuesday that allows law enforcement to deploy potentially lethal robots in cases of emergency. Following a tense two-hour debate, officials voted 8-3 in favor of the ordinance, which has drawn criticism from civil liberties organizations and police oversight groups.

Proponents argued that the move is necessary to ensure community safety, as the devices will only be used after officers exhaust all de-escalation tactics when dealing with violent suspects. However, opponents argued that the use of deadly robots could “lead to the further militarization of a police force” that disproportionately targets minority communities. 

“San Francisco is not a war zone, and these kinds of devices are not needed to protect this city,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, who voted against the proposal. “There is serious potential for misuse and abuse of this military-grade technology, and zero showing of necessity.”

The vote took place months after California implemented a law that requires police to seek approval for the use of military-style weapons. CBS reports the San Francisco Police Department currently has 12 operational ground robots that are mostly used to defuse potential bombs or for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes. Though the department said it has no plans to arm the robots with guns, officials say the ordinance will allow police to equip the devices with explosives.

The SFPD acquired the robots between 2010 and 2017, but officials say none have been used to deliver explosives. 

The measure will be subjected to a second vote next week. If it’s approved, San Francisco Mayor London Breed—a Democrat who sponsored the ordinance—will have 10 days to sign it.

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