Robots to eliminate criminals in San Francisco soon?

The San Francisco Police are calling for the use of killer robots in situations where their officers could be in danger of dying. Mine clearing and exploration robots would be hijacked to carry explosives or shoot bullets and kill the criminals.

Dallas, United States, in early July 2016. A madman killed five people and injured seven in the ranks of the police. He also kills two civilians. He was surrounded by police for several hours. After long fruitless negotiations and, after a series of firefights, the police deploy a robot loaded with explosives. The machine, a Northrop Grumman Andros robot designed for demining teams and the military, places the explosive charge near the shooter. Remotely activated, kills it.

This is the first time a robot has been used by the police to eliminate a criminal. Since then, the use of a robot in certain situations has been considered reasonable by US law enforcement to protect the lives of officers. This is why the San Francisco side of the police is currently asking the city’s supervisory board for permission to deploy robots. They would be used to neutralize suspects in cases where the risk of death to civilians or agents is considered significant. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has even drafted its own guidelines for employing a killer robot as part of its annual call to beef up its equipment.

An occupational doctrine too vague

At first, the city administration asked the SFPD to review its copy, because its doctrine could leave the way open for too wide a use of killer robots. The authorities therefore approved this document, because it explained that their deployment would be limited only to scenarios where it would be the only option. At the moment, the local police already have about ten remote-controlled robots. They are mainly used for inspections of potentially dangerous areas and demining. But, as happened impromptu in Dallas in 2016, they can be diverted from their primary mission to carry an explosive charge…

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