San Francisco police 'killer robots'

Occurred: December 2022

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A policy authorising the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to use military-style weapons, including remote-controlled robots, to kill suspects has been put on hold by the city's supervisors.

According to the SFPD, it's existing armoury of 17 Remotec and QinetiQ robots could be equipped with explosives 'to contact, incapacitate, or disorient [a] violent, armed, or dangerous suspect' in 'extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives.' 


Late November 2022, San Francisco's board of supervisors approved a policy that lets police robots '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.'

However, the decision resulted in an immediate backlash from civil rights groups. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued it was typical police-military mission creep. The San Francisco Public Defender’s office warned that granting police 'the ability to kill community members remotely' went against the city’s progressive values. 

A week later the boad suspended the policy, sending it back to back to committee for further discussion.

Operator: San Francisco Police Department (SFPD)
Developer: Remotec; QinetiQ  
Country: USA
Sector: Govt - police
Purpose: Strengthen security
Technology: Robotics
Issue: Safety; Scope creep/normalisation; Ethics
Transparency: Governance


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Type: Incident
Published: December 2022