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San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday evening to approve deadly force by robots to kill suspects that law enforcement deem a sufficient threat.

The San Francisco Police Department was given the ability to use deadly, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations after an 8-3 vote from its mostly liberal Board of Supervisors. After an emotionally charged debate that reflected divisions on the politically liberal board over support for law enforcement, and public comments from civil liberties and police oversight groups, the final vote was 8-3 in favor. Supervisors Shamann Walton, Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen were thel one dissenters.

“We continuously are being asked to do things in the name of increasing weaponry and opportunities for negative interaction between the police department and people of color,” said Board President Shamann Walton. “This is just one of those things.” 

San Francisco police are controversially asking permission to use killer robots on civilians:

— The Week (@TheWeek) November 29, 2022

The deadly robots would be equipped with explosive charges “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspects” when lives are at stake, SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie said in a statement.

A similar policy was under consideration in Oakland earlier this year, except police there sought to outfit robots with shotgun rounds. Oakland police discussed the use of armed robots with the Oakland Police Commission and community members “to explore all possible uses,” the department said. “However, after further discussions with the chief and the executive team, the department decided it no longer wanted to explore that particular option.”

Supervisors amended the San Francisco proposal Tuesday to specify that officers could use robots only after using alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through those alternative means. Only a limited number of high-ranking officers could authorize use of robots as a deadly force option.

San Francisco officials vote on police bid to use deadly robots

— The Guardian (@guardian) November 29, 2022

According to Police Scorecard, between 2013 and 2021 a Black person was 9.7 times more likely, and a Latino person was 4.3 times more likely to be killed by police as a White person in San Francisco.

Opponents of the new policy said the deadly authority would lead to the further militarization of a police force already too aggressive with poor and minority communities.

Even worse than I thought! Only three of us – myself, @shamannwalton and @DeanPreston voted against arming robots with weapons to kill. A damn shame.

— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) November 30, 2022

“I’m surprised that we’re here in 2022,” said Hilary Ronen, one of the supervisors at the Tuesday meeting. “We have seen a history of these leading to tragedy and destruction all over the world.”

Mike Creef is a fighter for equality and justice for all. Growing up bi-racial (Jamaican-American) on the east coast allowed him to experience many different cultures and beliefs that helped give him a...