San Francisco’s ruling Board of Supervisors has voted to allow the city’s police to use robots that could “potentially be equipped with explosive charges to breach fortified structures containing violent, armed, or dangerous subjects”.
A spokesperson from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) told the BBC on Wednesday that although the force do not currently operate any robots equipped with lethal force, but there may be future scenarios in which lethal force could be used by a robot.
“No policy can anticipate every conceivable situation or exceptional circumstance which officers may face. The SFPD must be prepared, and have the ability, to respond proportionally.”
The robots could also be used to “incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspects who pose a risk of loss of life”, the spokesperson added.
The Board’s measure passed, with an amendment on Tuesday specifies that officers can only use robots wielding deadly force after employing alternative de-escalation tactics.
It also stipulated that only a limited number of high-ranking officers could authorise its use, the BBC reported.
Similar type of lethal robot is already in use in other parts of the US.
In 2016, police in Dallas, Texas, used a robot armed with C-4 explosive to kill a sniper who had killed two officers and injured several more.