News USA San Francisco reverses deadly use of police robots

San Francisco reverses deadly use of police robots

San Francisco County supervisors have backed down on a move that would allow police to use robots in a lethal way. The measure was approved in late November by an 8-3 majority in the city’s oversight body. The decision immediately caused a stir. After several days of protests, the majority of supervisors reversed themselves to expressly prevent the police from using the machines, which they already have in their possession, to kill suspects in shootings, terrorist acts and bomb threats. The change of direction of the supervisors is unusual, since generally the second votes endorse the measures that were adopted in the first round and serve as visual authorization.

Three years ago, the eleven supervisors in a city that is the birthplace of technology became the first in the United States to prohibit local authorities from using facial recognition software. That is why it was so surprising that the same body recently leaned towards allowing the use of robots to kill in extreme cases. The discussion within the body was long and hard. Some supervisors criticized the measure and expressed concern that the regulation would lead to an increase in cases of police abuse. The majority prevailed, but the decision required that at least one of the two highest-ranking officers of the San Francisco police be the one to authorize the lethal use of the machine.

The minority that lost the vote then did not give up. Identified as the most progressive faction of the body, they threatened on Monday to start a collection of signatures to organize a referendum that would annul the measure. “That policy has no place in San Francisco,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said Monday at a protest event outside City Hall.

The protests of the supervisors themselves, in addition to the open rejection of non-governmental organizations against police abuse, made their peers change their minds. One of these was Gordon Mar, who in the first round of voting supported the measure. “Over the past week I have been very dissatisfied with our vote and with the precedent it sets for other cities that do not have the capacity to hold the police to account,” Mar said in a statement addressed to the local press. This Tuesday he has voted against the measure.

Dean Preston, another of the supervisors who opposed the initiative, assured this Tuesday that the local government’s efforts should be focused on reducing the use of force by local police officers and “not giving them new tools to kill people.” . Some automation experts believed that the police would use the option before exploring other possibilities.

The San Francisco Police Department faces several recommendations for abuse of authority. Among these are a hundred related to suspicious shootings of uniformed officers, some of these motivated by race issues, according to the Department of Justice. Some civil society organizations have claimed that a black person is five times more likely to be searched by the corporation on the streets than a white citizen. The use of force against African Americans is 13 times higher.

San Francisco has 17 robots that could be used to neutralize threats. The city has purchased 17 models since 2010, but only 12 are operational. These are used in tasks where the police are in danger. For example, where there are bombs involved, the arrest of armed criminals and the review of suspicious properties and plots.

In July 2006, the Dallas police became the first police force in the country to use a robot to kill a sniper. After tense hours of negotiation, the shooter opened fire, killing five police officers. “We had no choice but to drive our bomb robot and attach an explosive to one of its extensions and detonate it where the subject was,” said Police Chief David Brown. This Tuesday San Francisco has decided not to follow in the footsteps of Dallas.

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