San Francisco Police Robots Could Soon Use Deadly Force if the SFPD Has Its Way

QinetiQ Talon 6 photos
Photo: QinetiQ
QinetiQ Dragon RunnerQinetiQ Dragon RunnerFirstLookQinetiQ TalonQinetiQ Talon
There are many people out there who consider the rise of robots a sign of a coming apocalypse, or at least the end of human civilization as we know it. In fact, not only people, but organizations too, with many of them vowing never to weaponize robots. San Francisco seems to have a different view on things, though.
The city has a new draft on Law Enforcement Equipment Policy. Applicable to inventory acquired prior to January 2022, it is meant to “ensure the responsible use of the Police Department’s current inventory” for the protection of “City and County of San Francisco residents’ safety, civil rights, and liberties.”

Somewhere in there (you can find the document attached as a PDF below this text) there’s a section referring to the authorized use of unmanned, remotely piloted, powered ground vehicles. The city has 17 of them, with five non-functional at the time of writing.

The list of available robots includes three Northrop Grumman Remotec models, the F5A, F6A, and Rons, which can climb stairs, lift, carry and tow payloads and tools. QinetiQ Talons and Dragon Runners are also in the inventory, and they are mostly used for explosive and other dangerous materials. The IRobot FirstLook throwable robot on the other hand can sneak and spy on the bad guys.

The document clearly states the robots will “not be utilized outside of training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments.“

But then it goes on to say they could be used as deadly force, even if only “when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”

It’s unclear at this point exactly how any of the robots mentioned about could be turned into deadly weapons to be used by police officers, but options are aplenty, especially in the case of Remotec machines.

According to The Verge, the draft is still under review, but has already passed the city’s rules committee scrutiny.
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 Download: San Francisco Law Enforcement Equipment Policy (PDF)

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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