San Francisco, the “progressive” city that has approved sending police robots to deal with suspects

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The proudly progressive city of San Francisco last week became the unexpected pioneer willing to do just that employ armed police robotsauthorizing to limited use of these remote control devices.

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The city was then adopting an increasingly visible developing technology, though rarely used confront suspects directly.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday, by a vote of 8 to 3, allowing police to use robots armed with explosives in extreme situations where lives are at stake and there are no other alternatives available.

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The authorization was issued in a context of growth control over the police from the militarization of the police apparatus and forces, and from a reflection on criminal justice that began several years ago.

The vote was in response to a new California law that requires police to inventory their military-grade equipment, such as flash grenades, assault rifles and armored vehicles, and seek permission from public institutions to use them.

So far, only the police in two California cities — San Francisco and Oakland — have publicly brought up the use of robots as part of that process.

When is a robot used?

All over the country, police have been using robots for the past decade communicate with suspects entrenched, enter potentially dangerous spaces and, in rare cases, a use deadly force.

The Dallas Police she was the first to kill a suspect with a robot in 2016, when she used one to detonate explosives during a standoff with a sniper that killed five police officers and wounded nine others.

The recent vote in San Francisco has reignited a heated debate that began years ago about the ethics of using robots to kill a suspect and where such practices might lead. In general, according to experts, the use of these robots remains low despite technological advances.

Michael White, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said that even if robotics companies offer deadlier options at trade shows, that doesn’t mean law enforcement agencies will buy them.

White said companies made specialized mines to clear barricades and tried to fit body cameras with facial recognition software, but police didn’t want them.

“Because communities haven’t sustained that level of policing. It’s hard to say what will happen in the future, but I think armed robots could very well be the next thing (police) departments they don’t want Why the communities say they don’t want them” White noted.

Robot or no robot, San Francisco official David Chiu, who wrote California’s law enforcement equipment law when he was in the state legislature, said communities deserve more transparency from law enforcement agencies and how they use the equipment. militarize.

“Killer Robots”

San Francisco “just was the city that faced an issue that I certainly hadn’t thought of when the bill was drafted, and that addresses the issue of so-called killer robots,” said Chiu, who is now the attorney for the city ​​.

In 2013, police kept their distance and used a robot to lift a tarp under which the Boston Marathon bombing suspect was hiding.

Three years later, the Dallas police sent a robot used to defuse the bombs charged with explosives in a room at El Centro College to end hours of confrontations with sniper Micah Xavier Johnson, who had fired at officers as he was wrapping up a protest against police brutality.

Police detonated the explosives and became the first police force to use a robot to kill a suspect. A grand jury declined to indict the officers, and then Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown was widely praised for his handling of the shooting and the crisis.

“In the six months after Dallas, there was this air of doom about how robots were going to be used in police departments,” said Mark Lomax, former director of the National Association of Tactical Agents. “But since then, I haven’t heard much about using that system to neutralize suspects (…) until the San Francisco rule was in the news.”

The question of lethal robots it has yet to proliferate in the public debate in Californiawhile more than 500 police departments at various levels request authorization for your military category weapons under the new state law. Oakland police abandoned its plan to arm the robots with rifles amid public outrage, but will equip them with tear gas.

Many of the standards already approved they are vague on armed robots, and some law enforcement agencies may infer that they have implied permission to use them, said John Lindsay-Poland, who oversees implementation of the new law as part of the American Friends Service Committee.

“I think most departments aren’t ready to use their robots with lethal force,” he said. “But if you ask them, I suspect there are other departments that would say ‘we want that authority.'”

San Francisco supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed first ban on police using robotic force against any person. But the department said that while it wouldn’t equip the robots with firearms, it did want the ability to outfit them with explosives to tear down barricades or disorient a suspect.

The approved regulation restricts a few high-ranking officers authorizing the use of robots as a lethal force, and only when lives are in danger and after exhausting alternate force or de-escalation techniques, or concluding that the suspect cannot be subdued by other means. .

San Francisco Police said the dozen robots already used by the department have never been used to move an explosive device, but are used to assess bombs or provide images in low-visibility situations.

“We live in an era where unimaginable mob violence is becoming more and more common. We need the possibility of saving lives in case we have that kind of tragedy in our city,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Police Department does not have any armed drones or robots, Strike Force Lieutenant Ruben Lopez said. Lopez declined to explain why her department he had not asked for permission to have armed robotsbut confirmed they would need a permit to use one.

“It’s a violent world, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said.

Often there are better options than bots when deadly force is needed, because bombs can cause collateral damage to people and buildings, said Lomax, former director of the tactical agent group. “For many departments, especially in crowded cities, these factors will add too much risk,” he explained.

the robot dog

NYPD returned a robotic dog rented ahead of schedule public outrageindicating that civilians are still not comfortable with the idea of ​​machines chasing humans.

The Maine Police have used robots on at least two occasions to vegetable explosives what they wanted break down walls or doors and put an end to stagnant situations.

In June 2018, in the small town of Dixmont, Maine, police planned to use a robot to plant a small explosive that would have collapsed an exterior wall, but instead the roof of the house collapsed.

The man inside was shot twice in the blast, survived and refused to plead guilty or not guilty to reckless conduct with a firearm. The state later settled the man’s lawsuit against the police, accusing them of misusing the explosives.

In April 2020, Maine police used a small charge to blow up the door of a house where a man had barricaded himself. the suspect shot to death by police as he walked out the door damaged and fired a pistol.

As of this week, the state attorney’s office had not completed its review of the tactics used in the 2018 case, including the use of the explosive charge. A 2020 incident report referred only to the fatal shooting.

Lauer reported from Philadelphia. AP writer David Sharp contributed from Portland, Maine.


Source: Clarin

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