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‘No place for killer robots in our city’: San Francisco abandons controversial policy after backlash

After the controversial announcement, police made a U-turn and said that killer robots would not be introduced in San Francisco.

When lives were at risk, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), had proposed that robots with explosive charges be deployed to “contact, incapacitate or disorient violent, armed or dangerous suspects”.

On Tuesday, however, the city supervisors voted against the controversial policy. However, the issue will be resubmitted to a committee for further discussions and may resurface.

Last week, the board voted to allow deadly robots to be used in extreme circumstances. However, the decision put the notoriously liberal city at the centre of a debate over the future of technology, policing and policy. Some said that arming robots was too similar to dystopian science fiction movies.


Although robot technology has been made more readily available for police, many departments have not used it to confront and kill suspects.

A dozen ground robots are currently used by the police force to detect bombs and provide reconnaissance in low-visibility environments.

After a California law was passed this year, it was necessary to give explicit authorization to robots being used as a force.

Learn more about robots

Three supervisors who opposed the policy at the outset joined hundreds of protestors outside City Hall to demand that the board change its course.

They held signs that read slogans like “We all saw this movie… No Killer Robots” and “We all sang that movie…”

Dean Preston, Supervisor, was one of them. He stated that the people of San Francisco had spoken out loudly and clearly: There is no place in San Francisco for police robots.

“We should work on ways to reduce the use force by local police enforcement, and not give them new tools for killing people.”


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