Surely, they have all the brains at their disposal, but despite that being the case; human beings just cannot keep themselves from making an error every now and then. This dynamic has already been reinforced quite a few times throughout our history, with each testimony practically forcing us to look for a defensive cover. We will, however, solve our conundrum in the most fitting way possible, and we’ll do so by bringing dedicated regulatory bodies into the fold. Having a well-defined authority across and every area was a game-changer, as it instantly gave us a safety cushion against our many shortcomings. Now, the kind of utopia you would generally expect from such a development did arrive, but at the same time, it failed to stick around for very long. Talk about what led to the setback in question, it was all technology’s fault. You see, the moment technology got its layered nature to take over the scene, it allowed people an unprecedented chance to exploit others for their own benefit. In case this didn’t sound bad enough, the whole runner soon began to materialize on such a massive scale that it expectantly overwhelmed our governing forces and sent them back to the drawing board. After an extended spell in the wilderness, though, it seems like the regulatory contingent is finally ready for a comeback. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, but now, we face a policy that might just change the course of new-age regulation forever.
The San Francisco Police Department is officially set to propose a new policy, which would give robots the permission to kill under a specified set of circumstances. The stated element comes attached to a wider policy that talks about how SFPD can use military-style weapons, and if we go by the latest draft, it states that robots can be “used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option.” Notably enough, the idea of robots having the option to use any deadly force wasn’t approved initially, but Aaron Peskin, the Dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, eventually decided to accept the mandate because “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.” As per a report from Mission Local, the rule will also let these robotic systems become a part of “training and simulations, criminal apprehensions, critical incidents, exigent circumstances, executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments.”
So far, the SFPD has used robotics technology mainly to diffuse bombs or deal with other hazardous materials. However, a shift has been in the works for a while now, considering the newer Remotec models do have an optional weapons system. To give you an example, the department’s existing F5A has a tool called the PAN disruptor that can load 12-gauge shotgun shells. Another example here is the QinetiQ Talon that can also hold various weapons. In fact, it is even used by the US army to equip grenade launchers, machine guns or a .50-caliber anti-materiel rifle.
“SFPD has always had the ability to use lethal force when the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available,” said SFPD Officer, Eve Laokwansathitaya. “SFPD does not have any sort of specific plan in place as the unusually dangerous or spontaneous operations where SFPD’s need to deliver deadly force via robot would be a rare and exceptional circumstance.”
SFPD is not the first US police department to have done something of this sort. Back in 2016, the Dallas Police Department also used a bomb-disposal robot to carry out deadly force against a suspect who killed five police officers and injured a fair few others. Apart from that, even the California’s Oakland Police Department was, at one point, mulling over a similar legislation, but it decided against adding “armed remote vehicles to the department.”