Killer robot plan for San Francisco police scrapped over safety concerns

Announcement met with Terminator and Black Mirror comparisons around the world

A police officer uses a robot to investigate a bomb threat in San Francisco in 2008.  The liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponised police robots in November before the plan was sent back to the drawing board. AP
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A plan to equip San Francisco police with killer robots was sent back to the drawing board on Tuesday after city council members said they were having second thoughts.

City supervisors last week said police would be allowed to use robots capable of delivering lethal force to deal with dangerous felons and life-threatening situations.

Police had welcomed the plan, stressing that it would be an option of last resort for tackling violent suspects such as mass shooters or suicide bombers, without risk to officers' lives.

But at a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that had been set to approve the plan, officials said they now had reservations.

“Last week, despite some ethical concerns, I did support the legislation but over the past week I feel extremely uncomfortable about it,” board member Gordon Mar said.

“I do not think armed and remote robots will make us safer.”

Diana Scott takes part in a protest against the use of robots by the San Francisco Police Department, on Monday. AP

Last week's announcement sparked headlines around the world, with some making comparisons with dystopian sci-fi such as Terminator and Black Mirror.

Protesters attended Tuesday's meeting and had descended on city hall demanding the plan be reversed.

After discussions, supervisors said the decision on killer robots needed to go back to committee for further consideration, although gave the green light to plans to allow police to acquire some military-style equipment.

Updated: December 07, 2022, 4:30 AM