San Francisco votes against using police robots for deadly force

December 8, 2022
View of the Golden Gate Bridge from below with pink skies.

The people of San Francisco have spoken loud and clear: There is no place for killer police robots in our city.

Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Dean Preston. The board originally voted in favor of allowing police to use deadly force with remote-controlled robots in emergencies. Following public backlash, they voted unanimously against the measure on Tuesday.

Background: California requires law enforcement agencies to obtain approval from local government regarding how military-grade weapons are used. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) proposed the use of robots, attached with explosives, “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspect[s],” according to a SFPD spokesperson. City supervisors originally voted in favor of the measure (8-3).

Why It Matters: Tuesday's vote bans officers from using robots for lethal purposes. However, "the original deadly robot provision" was sent to the Rules Committee for further review. Another vote will be taken next week to confirm the new versions of the policy before it will head to Mayor London Breed to be signed. The San Francisco Chronicle notes, "the fight is part of a larger Bay Area conflict about how to balance public safety with modern technology while safeguarding civil liberties."

San Francisco changes course, bans police use of 'killer robots' amid public outrage (USA Today)

S.F. halts ‘killer robots’ police policy after huge backlash — for now (San Francisco Chronicle)

by Jenna Lee,