San Francisco cancels plans for 'killer police robots'

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

San Francisco supervisors have nixed their plan to allow police officers to use robots to kill in emergency situations, a board member confirmed on Tuesday.

"The people of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: There is no place for killer police robots in our city," supervisor Dean Preston told ABC News in a statement. "There have been more killings at the hands of police than any other year on record nationwide. We should be working on ways to decrease the use of force by local law enforcement, not giving them new tools to kill people."

The news comes a day after community groups protested outside San Francisco's City Hall condemning the ordinance, which the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved in an 8-3 vote on Nov. 29.

Before the board's vote reversing course, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California told ABC News that it was a terrible idea to let cops use robots for deadly force.

"Allowing them to kill remotely will lead to more mistakes, and as we have seen many times before with other police weapons, to more frequent use," ACLU NorCal said.

In a letter to Mayor London Breed and city board members, dozens of racial justice groups, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, LGBTQ organizations and labor unions called for board members to change their vote, saying the use of robots would be dangerous to not only San Francisco residents, but to people who visit the city.

"SFPD's proposal would allow officers to send these robots to all arrests and all searches with warrants, and to protests if police decide that 'exigent circumstances' or other flexible justifications in the policy apply," the organizations wrote in the letter.

The SFPD did not respond to ABC News' request for comment about the board's reversal, but did defend the passage of the Law Enforcement Equipment Policy in a Dec. 1 press release, saying that it only planned to deploy the robots for potential lethal force "in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of life."

"The use of robots in potentially deadly force situations is a last resort option. We live in a time when unthinkable mass violence is becoming more commonplace," San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said at the time. "We need the option to be able to save lives in the event we have that type of tragedy in our city."

Related Topics