San Francisco supervisors reversed a decision to authorize lethal force by police robots last week, following an outcry that highlighted the racial inequity, potential for accidents and disaster, militarization of policing, lack of opportunity for public input, and precedents for other communities. 

“Any police militarization exacerbates existing racist policing practices. Using lethal police robots is no exception,” said Sameena Usman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area. “Explosives in the hands of police have always hurt communities of color, as we saw in the Los Angeles Police’s fireworks explosion earlier this year.”

“These robots were meant for disposal of explosives, not deployment of them,” said Peter H of Indivisible SF. “Bombs maim and kill and they don’t distinguish between a target and a bystander.”

“For far too long, Black and brown communities have borne a large share of police violence and brutality. We oppose the expansion of the police state and access to weapons of war,” said Mano Raju, San Francisco Public Defender. 

“Supervisors initially approved weapons policies posted only three days before the public hearing on them, violating a state law requirement for 30 days,” said Jennifer Tu of American Friends Service Committee. “While supervisors reversed the killer robots authority, they retained an inventory that disappeared 375 assault rifles. That needs to change.”

“Thanks to the passionate residents of the Bay Area and the support of eight Supervisors, the Board voted against SFPD use of deadly force with remote-controlled robots. Should the Rules Committee revisit the issue, the community must come together to stop this dangerous use of technology,” said Matthew Guariglia of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“We are relieved that the supervisors changed course and banned killer robots, and we will do everything we can to make sure they remain banned,” said Yoel Haile, Criminal Justice Director at the ACLU of northern California. “This irresponsible policy would have exposed Black and brown people to more danger and death at the hands of the police.”

San Francisco supervisors unanimously approved a policy on December 6 that prohibits the deadly use of robots, and will vote on it in a second reading Tuesday, December 13. The board’s Rules Committee may review the policy, but will not do so until after the new year.