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San Francisco Pauses Plan to Allow Police Robots to Use Lethal Force

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted this week to halt an upcoming plan that would have allowed police robots to use lethal force. 

The board voted unanimously to pause the plan on Tuesday, according to The Hill, following outcry.


Townhall covered last week how the city was considering the motion to allow law enforcement to use these devices in “extreme circumstances.” In 2016, Dallas police officers used a bomb-equipped robot to kill a Micah Xavier Johnson, a man who ambushed and killed five police officers. 

The vote to allow the police robots to use lethal force initially passed 8-3, despite “strong objections” from civil rights and police oversight organizations, according to the Associated Press.

“We are living in a dystopian future, where we debate whether the police may use robots to execute citizens without a trial, jury, or judge,” said Tifanei Moyer of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said to Mission Local

Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, signaled support for the proposal, The New York Times noted.

“If the police are called to serve in a situation where someone intends to do harm or is already doing harm to innocent people, and there is technology that can help to end the violence and save lives, we need to allow police to use these tools to save lives,” Breed’s office said in a statement to the Times.


Elizabeth E. Joh, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law, said the policy would “erode public trust in law enforcement.”

“I suppose all of this can be summarized as whether we want to live in a world in which police can kill people remotely with robots,” Ms. Joh said. “I’m not sure we do.”

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