Killer Robot proposal from the San Francisco Police Department sparks jokes and memes

The San Francisco Police Department’s proposal to use licensed robots to kill has sparked derision among social media users who have promptly drawn a parallel to the popular dystopian TV show Black mirror.

Under the proposal, filed in a document unanimously approved last week by the San Francisco Rules Committee, the SFPD would deploy robots that are allowed to use lethal force in situations where the risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers “is imminent.” and “outweighs any other power option available for SFPD.”

These military-style robots — a collection of 17 remote-controlled, unmanned robots purchased by the SFPD before January of this year, five of which are inoperative — would only be operated by assigned operators who have completed the required training, according to the document.

Comp Photo, Bomb Disposal Robot and SF
In this combination image, a stock photo of the San Francisco skyline and the Bay Bridge at sunset, California and a Remotec Andros bomb disposal robot
Getty/US Air Force

Most of these robots are used for defusing bombs or handling hazardous materials, but some of the new models have optional weapon systems.

According to the design policy, the robots should not be used outside of training and simulations, criminal arrests, critical incidents, exigent circumstances,
executing a warrant or during suspicious device assessments.

News Week contacted the SFPD for comment.

But after news of San Francisco’s draft policy broke in the public eye, few shared their support for the idea. Most, on the other hand, scoffed at it.

“The killer robots in Hak mall are ridiculous and accurate,” wrote one Twitter user who shared an image from the 1986 movie about three malfunctioning high-tech security robots going on a killing spree in a mall.

“I think I’ve seen this movie. They put the brain of a psycho killer into the robot. RoboCop 2‘ wrote another.

“Oh good now that the police are purchasing armed robots to kill unarmed civilians on the street more safely. Black mirror wasn’t meant to be a prophecy, why did they let people in Silicon Valley watch that one EP,” another Twitter user commented.

An episode of the British series Black mirrortitled “Metalhead”, depicts an ominous robot dog chasing humans (the robot’s design was inspired by Boston Dynamics’ BigDog).

According to Mission Local, which first reported on the SFPD proposal, the initial draft of the policy contained no mention of the use of deadly force until Aaron Peskin, the dean of the city’s board of trustees, added a rule stating that “robots will not be used as a use of force against a person.”

The document was then reportedly returned by the SFPD with Peskin’s line crossed out and replaced with the mention of deadly force.

The new policy is not yet in effect, as it must first be approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors next Tuesday.

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