SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted not to allow police to deploy robots authorized to use lethal force on Tuesday.
The proposal to use lethal force robots is part of a broader piece of legislation authorizing the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to obtain and use military gear.
Tuesday’s vote will send the legislation back to the committee, and the board intends to continue debating the use of armed robots going forward. As a result of the supervisors’ vote, language authorizing the robots to use lethal force will be changed to suggest that the robots will not be allowed to use deadly force.
Tuesday’s decision is a reversal from last week’s vote, wherein supervisors voted 8 to 3 to give the SFPD the right to use remote-controlled armed robots in extreme situations. The police said they had no plans to arm the robots with guns but wanted the ability to put explosives on them in extraordinary circumstances.
Last week’s approval generated pushback and criticism about the potential to deploy robots with the capability to kill. Several supervisors joined dozens of protesters outside City Hall on Monday to urge the board to change course.
Some supervisors said they felt the public did not have enough time to engage in the discussion about whether robots could be used to kill people before the board first voted last week.
The vote was the result of a new state law that requires police departments to inventory military-grade equipment and seek approval for its use.
Supervisor Dean Preston, who voted against the policy last week, said the spirit of the law is to make sure “strong feelings people hold” can be heard by public officials. He argued the board failed to allow enough time for that.
SF Supervisor Hillary Ronen tweeted in response to the vote, saying, “We just stopped the use of killer robots in SF. Complete reversal from last week. Common sense prevailed.”
A section of the policy on SFPD robots will now be sent back to the rules committee for review.
The new policy needs another vote before it can take effect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.