The San Francisco Police Department Continues to Consider Robots

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The San Francisco Police Department Continues to Consider Robots

Recent events and proposals have shown that the San Francisco Police Department has not turned over a new leaf when it comes to the use of force. The Helbraun Law Firm are trial lawyers representing clients who have been the victim of police misconduct in San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay Area. We have successfully obtained settlements for clients who have their civil rights violated. 

The SFPD recently proposed using deadly robots, gaining initial approval from the Board of Supervisors, before they reversed course under pressure. Still, the SFPD has not dropped the issue of robots and may reintroduce it in the future. 

If you have been the victim of excessive and unreasonable force at the hands of the police, you can take legal action to vindicate your own civil rights and receive compensation. Call the Helbraun Law Firm to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Attorney David M. Helbraun could help you get justice when the police have violated your rights. 

The Use of Police Robots Is Still a Possibility

In spite of ongoing efforts of police reform, the SFPD has continued to entertain the idea of robots able to use deadly force. While the city’s Board of Supervisors has already blocked robots’ using deadly force, the SFPD may resubmit the proposal in the future. The numerous instances in which human police officers have used deadly force are serious enough without adding an additional way for the SFPD to use excessive force against civilians.

In November 2022, the SFPD submitted a proposal to the Board of Supervisors to allow the department to use robots that can deliver deadly force. Newer models of remote control robots come with an optional weapons system that can even load grenades and shotgun shells. The SFPD has twelve operational robots that can be retrofitted to give them the capability to use offensive lethal force. The United States Army currently uses a version of this weapon.

To be clear, the robots at issue were not autonomous, making their own decisions about whether to use lethal force. They are operated by remote control. The public outcry was spurred in part by images of Robocops. Still, these extremely deadly weapons would still make it easier for police to use force, and they would increase the risk of excessive force. 

The SFPD’s attempts to gain approval for deadly robots stand in contrast to the ongoing efforts at police reform. One of the key elements in Mayor Breed’s reform plan is the demilitarization of the police. The mayor had directed the SFPD “to establish an explicit policy barring the use of military-grade weapons against unarmed civilians.”

The SFPD Still Wants to Use Robots in Many of its Public-Facing Tasks

The SFPD proposed to use them under very broad circumstances, including:

  • Criminal apprehensions 
  • Critical incidents
  • Exigent circumstances 
  • Executing a warrant 

These situations encompass much of the work done by the SFPD. The use of deadly robots would be a significant issue for a department that has already struggled with the use of excessive force, particularly against minorities. These sophisticated and deadly weapons would conjure images of a dystopian future where police officers use advanced weaponry to potentially kill civilians. 

The Board of Supervisors Currently Has Blocked the Use of Robots

This policy was extremely controversial, and it earned San Francisco negative publicity, both nationally and internationally. The outcry was part of the reason why the Board of Supervisors reversed course after initially approving the SFPD proposal. The issue received unfavorable coverage in major news outlets, portraying San Francisco in a negative light. 

However, the SFPD has not entirely dropped the idea of using deadly robots. Earlier in 2023, there were reports that the SFPD was considering resubmitting the proposal to the Board of Supervisors. The SFPD claims that these robots would actually reduce the number of injuries when the use of force is necessary, particularly among bystanders. As of now, the use of robots remains barred, and there is no timetable for resubmitting the proposal. Nonetheless, the SFPD remains interested in using these deadly weapons. 

Contact a San Francisco Civil Rights and Police Misconduct Attorney Today

Even if police do not have sophisticated and deadly robots at their disposal, they can still mistreat you in many ways. If you believe that police have violated your rights, reach out to the police misconduct lawyers at Helbraun Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation. We will explain to you how the police are not above the law and how you can fight back. You can message us online or call us today at (415) 982-4000. 

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