San Francisco police got approval from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to use the agency’s existing robots as a potential "deadly force option" during extreme incidents. The board signed off on the policy 8 to 3 with amendments.
San Francisco police already have 17 robots. The department is considering using a robot with explosives attached, as a way to get into a building with violent, armed suspects barricaded inside, KTVU reports.
In a statement, the department said in part, "While an explosive charge may be considered an intermediate force option, it could potentially cause injury or be lethal. Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives."
Supervisor Hillary Ronen wrote on Twitter: "Beyond disappointed that the Board seems poised to allow SFPD to use weaponized robots to use force against human beings."
Sup. Rafael Mandelman defended his vote for the measure in a Twitter thread and offered more details of what supervisors had approved. "This includes seven robots designed to neutralize/dispose of bombs, and provide video reconnaissance for operators." He added, "None of the robots have firearms attached, and SFPD has no plans to attach firearms." Mandelman explained the robots have been used by the police department since 2010, but have never used lethal force.
These robots have been used by SFPD since 2010, and have never been used to deliver lethal force. There is only one instance on record of a law enforcement robot being used to kill someone, in 2016 when Dallas Police used a robot to kill a sniper who had shot five officers. 4/5— Rafael Mandelman (@RafaelMandelman) November 30, 2022
In 2016, a robot armed with explosives was used by Dallas police to kill a man who had just killed five police officers. And was getting ready to engage the SWAT team in a parking garage.
Then Dallas Police Chief David Brown made the decision to use the robot to deliver the explosives rather than risk losing additional officers in a gunfight. Negotiations with the suspect had failed.
Brown said at the time he approved using the bomb, which he described as about one pound of C4 set off with detonating cord.