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San Francisco votes to halt policy that would allow police to use deadly robots

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco supervisors voted Tuesday to place the brakes on a controversial coverage that may have let police use robots for lethal power, reversing course simply days after their approval of the plan generated fierce pushback and warnings concerning the militarization and automation of policing.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to explicitly ban the usage of robots in such a style for now. However they despatched the problem again to a committee for additional dialogue and will vote sooner or later to let police use robots in a deadly method in restricted circumstances.

The board voted final week to permit the usage of lethal robots in excessive circumstances. The police division mentioned it had no plans to arm the robots with weapons however needed the power to place explosives on them and use then to contact, incapacitate or disorient harmful or armed suspects when lives are in danger.

The preliminary vote thrust the famously liberal metropolis into the middle of a debate about the way forward for know-how and policing, with some saying arming robots was a step too near one thing one would see in a dystopian science fiction film. Although robotic know-how for policing has turn out to be extra extensively out there, departments throughout the nation have hardly ever used it to confront or kill suspects.

Three supervisors who rejected the coverage from the start joined dozens of protesters Monday outdoors Metropolis Corridor to induce the board to alter course. They chanted and held indicators with phrases like “All of us noticed that film… No Killer Robots.”

Supervisor Dean Preston was amongst them, and on Tuesday he instructed his colleagues the general public hadn’t been given sufficient time to voice their issues about such a urgent challenge.

“The individuals of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: There is no such thing as a place for killer police robots in our metropolis,” he mentioned in an announcement after the vote. “We ought to be engaged on methods to lower the usage of power by native regulation enforcement, not giving them new instruments to kill individuals.”

The vote was the results of a brand new state regulation that requires police departments to stock tools together with sure weapons, grenades, armored automobiles and battering rams and to hunt specific approval for his or her use. To date, solely San Francisco and Oakland have mentioned deadly robots as a part of that regulation. Oakland police needed to arm robots with shotguns however backed down within the face of public opposition, as an alternative choosing pepper spray.

Some San Francisco officers needed to proceed with permitting robots to make use of lethal power in sure circumstances, arguing nothing substantive had modified to warrant a reversal. However the vote to advance the broader police tools coverage — together with the ban on deadly robots — handed unanimously.

It nonetheless permits police to make use of robots to take a look at doubtlessly harmful scenes in order that officers can keep again.

“Having robots which have eyes and ears and may take away bombs, which occurs every so often, is one thing that we wish the police division to do whereas we proceed to have this very controversial dialogue,” mentioned Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced ahead final week’s movement round the usage of robots.

The brand new coverage wants one other vote to take impact.

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