San Francisco wants to allow its police to use robots capable of killing: An option of last resort

Eva Deschamps / December 2, 2022

San Francisco is considering allowing its police officers to use killer robots, a controversial decision defended Thursday as a "last resort" by the police of this American city.
The San Francisco City Council voted 8-3 on Tuesday to adopt a resolution allowing police to use robots capable of killing in extreme cases, such as terrorist attacks or mass killings, which are very common in the United States. This decision, which must still be definitively adopted during a city council meeting scheduled for December 6, according to the New York Times, is feeding an intense controversy. Its opponents fear that it will lead to an increase in police violence and a future worthy of the "Terminator" films.
The use of robots in potentially deadly situations is an option of last resort," San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said in a statement. "We live in a time when mass violence is becoming more common," he insisted. "We need this option to save lives, should this kind of tragedy occur in our city."
Only high-ranking police officers could give the order to use a robot to kill, the statement said. San Francisco police currently have several robots, which they can control remotely and are used "during bomb threats, hazardous materials and other incidents where officers need to keep their distance before securing the scene," according to the release. The new measure would allow the robots to be used to place an "explosive charge" capable of "disabling or disorienting an armed or dangerous violent suspect who threatens to take lives," according to police.
Robots equipped in this way would only be used to save innocent lives," the police said. "This is a horrible policy and the exact opposite of how police should use robots," reacted Paul Scharre, vice president of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, on Twitter.
"The advantage of robots is that they create more distance between law enforcement and a threat, precisely so that they don't need to use lethal force," he added, pointing out that police officers can use many means to neutralize an assailant without killing him or her - tasers, blinding grenades, tear gas, etc. For him, the decision of San Francisco, which may be followed by other cities, "is a new example of the militarization of the American police," he denounced.
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