Police want to give robots the power to kill people with new draft policy in San Francisco

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New rules will allow robots to kill people under the direction of the police.

A new San Francisco policy proposal includes guidance that lets police use robots as a “deadly force option” if they have no other choice.

Local lawmakers had initially attempted to include guidance that would have included restrictions against killing people with robots. “Robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person,” the original guidance read.

But police then struck out that language and instead swapped it for guidance that allowed for the use of killer robots. “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available to SFPD,” it now reads.

The new policy has been approved by the local rules committee and will be voted on by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors next week.

It will mark the first time that the use of deadly force by robots has been ruled on either way in San Francisco. The police there do not have any robots that are explicitly used as weapons, and they have never been used to attack anyone.

But other forces have used robots to kill people. The first example of such an event in the US came in 2016, when Dallas police attached explosives to a robot and used them to kill a sniper who had killed five officers.

The San Francisco police have access to one of the same robots used in that operation, the Remotec F5A. Officially, that robot is designed for clearing explosives, and is not to meant to be used as a weapon.

In all, the force has 12 functioning robots. Typically they are used for “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments”, according to the same policy.

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Andrew Griffin