San Francisco supervisors to take final vote on robotics with lethal capabilities

San Francisco city leaders are set to take a final vote on a plan that would allow police in that city to use robots equipped with deadly force. The idea had support among the majority of supervisors who took their first vote on this issue a week ago. Now those supervisors will be voting on the issue, but opponents are saying deadly force and robots is a dangerous mix.

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors have already voted once, eight to three to approve a controversial plan to arm human controlled robots with lethal force. Now the supervisors are preparing to take a final vote on the idea and those opposed are making one final push to block the effort. "I can't believe that in the city and county of San Francisco that we're even having to consider this issue," said District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston.

Supervisor Preston has sent a letter to Mayor London Breed who authored the legislation, saying backers of the plan failed to provide adequate notice for the change in the use of force policy. The supervisor saying opponents are prepared to challenge the plan legislatively on the board, and with a ballot initiative if necessary. "It seems like a complete no-brainer to me, that it's completely reckless to give police robots to kill people here in San Francisco," said Supervisor Preston. "That is absolutely unacceptable."

Supporters of the plan have said the remote operated devices would always have a person in the loop making decisions, and the police department has said that any remote operated robot equipped with lethal capabilities would only be used as a last resort option.

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But opponents say they're worried that line will creep if the use of deadly force is permitted. "We've seen with military equipment in the hands of police a hundred times before that when you give them this technology, even if they pinky promise that they will only use it in the most extreme circumstances that threshold eventually gets wider and wider and wider," said Matthew Guariglia from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Board of Supervisors is set to take that second vote on this matter Tuesday, and at least one supervisor has said he will change his vote from a yes to a no, opposing the plan. The supervisors can vote to approve, vote it down, or possibly send the issue back to committee for more study before coming up with a final policy.