San Francisco Reverses Decision To Let Police Robots Kill Citizens

Bad news, Robocop fans.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

A robot on tracks with a gun fitted to the top.

The plan has been voted down, after initially being approved. Image credit: ID1974/

Good news everybody who doesn't want the police to be able to kill people using robots: San Francisco have paused their scheme to allow just that, following a backlash after they voted it through last week.

Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in favor of approving a policy that allows police to use robots with lethal force “when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and officers cannot subdue the threat after using alternative force options or de-escalation tactics".


The vote was the first of two, with the second taking place on Tuesday. The proposal drew a lot of criticism in the interim, including from civil liberty group Stop Killer Robots, who called it a "slippery slope" that would distance humans operators from killings. 

Police had also sought the power to use robots to "incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspects who pose a risk of loss of life"

“These robots would be a last resort,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott told CNN.

“If we ever have to exercise that option, it either means lives, innocent lives, have already been lost, or in the balance," he added, "and this would be the only option to neutralize that person putting those lives at risk, or the person who has taken those lives.”


The robots themselves would be less Robocop wielding guns, more Johnny 5 with a remote bomb strapped to it. Bizarrely, police in Dallas have already used such a robot to kill a shooting suspect in July 2016.

The second vote saw the legislation paused and sent for further review by a committee, to be altered or potentially scrapped altogether.


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