The city of San Francisco, United States, through its chamber of supervisors, approved the use of armed robots by the police. Now, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) will be able to use the equipment to kill or injure suspects in life-threatening situations. Among the controversies of the case is the choice of weapon.
The proposal for the use of “Robocop” ensures that it will only be used as a last resort. The prime example used in favor of the robot was the case of a gunman who killed five police officers and two civilians in Dallas, Texas. Texas city police used a bomb disposal robot to deliver a bomb to the shooter’s location.
Police robot, the friendly neighborhood drone
If you’ve ever watched The Wire (you’re my friend), you might remember the scene in which James McNutty, in a moment of “epiphany”, comments to one of his colleagues that he misses the days of the “neighborhood cop”, who knew the residents by name.
THE arrival of police robot with “permission to kill” brings San Francisco citizens something they only see on the news: drones used in wars. Of course, given the proper proportions. We’re not talking about an MQ-9 Reaper with a Hellfire missile, but a robot with a grenade or shotgun — yes.
As explained by Ars Technica, some bomb disposal robots use a shotgun to “disarm” the bomb, others use lighter explosives. Armed robots are not far from the mainstream, but their use in police “combat” operations is still new.
The SFPD uses the Talon robot for bomb disposal situations. The robot is manufactured by QinetiQ, the company that also developed MAARS, the “Rambo” version of Talon.
One of the arguments against the use of “police robots” (which are not called Murphy) is that there is no need to install lethal weapons, as the lives of police officers will not be at risk — the robots will operate remotely.
In the case in Dallas, which took place in 2016, the police used the “adapted” robot as a last resort – it was even speculated that the bomb used was from the disarming kit. After all, five policemen and two civilians were killed. To ensure its use as a “last measure”, San Francisco law will ensure that only a limited number of high-ranking officials authorize the robot’s use as a lethal force.
Pumps increase risk of side effects
The use of a robot will not guarantee the end of failed approaches — it will still be controlled remotely. In addition, the SFPD’s option is, at first, to use “robot bombs” — which increases the risk of hitting civilians.
The problem of side effects with drones led the Armed Forces to develop the Hellfire R9X, an anti-personnel missile without any explosives. If the objective of these “robocops” is to end an extreme situation without endangering the lives of police and civilians, the use of non-lethal weapons in robots is also possible. Even though some US states have the death penalty, the role of the police (in any democratic country) is still to ensure due process.
In the end, the “debut” of such legislation for the police is also the evolution of something natural in public security: the adoption of war technologies and strategies in everyday operations. And the current “mantra” of technological development in the Armed Forces is precision and efficiency (Ukraine say so), something difficult to achieve with “bomb-bombs”.
With information: Ars Technica and Associated Press