San Francisco cops will get "killer robots"

San Francisco cops will get "killer robots"
(Benjie Sanders/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

San Francisco is one of the most anti-gun cities in the nation. They have never met a gun control measure they didn’t like. The only reason they don’t completely ban firearms is that they know it would never survive a legal challenge.


But San Francisco isn’t averse to weapons in general.

For example, they’re totally cool with arming robots.

Police in San Francisco will have the ability to deploy potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency situations after supervisors of the politically Democratic city granted permission Tuesday in a board vote.

City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said SFPD will have access to seven robots “designed to neutralize dispose of bombs, and provide video reconnaissance for operators.” None of the robots will have firearms attached, but Mandelman said they could be asked to carry out deadly force in extreme situations.

“Under this policy, SFPD is authorized to use these robots to carry out deadly force in extremely limited situations when risk to loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available,” he wrote on Twitter.

Of course, this isn’t the first time someone has considered armed police robots.

In all seriousness, I find this amusing for a lot of reasons.

One is that they get people are concerned about putting guns on robots, so their answer to that is, “Oh, no, we’re not using guns. Just bombs.”


Because that is so much easier to swallow.

And, in fairness, it’s San Francisco. It might actually have been an easier sell than putting guns on them. People there are probably so conditioned to think of guns as bad that they may actually think of them as better than high explosives.

Now, personally, I don’t have an issue with an armed remote. We’re basically talking about a drone, not unlike a UCAV in use by the military. Putting a weapon on it allows an operator to take out a target without putting the good guys at risk.

But personally, I’d prefer a firearm.

A gun is, at its simplest form, a “point-and-shoot” device. You pull the trigger and the round goes just where you’re pointing the gun. On a robot, assuming there’s little movement. you’re able to put that round on target from a pretty stable platform.

Explosives, though? Those can get messy, and there’s a reason law enforcement doesn’t use them for a lot of things. We never see them trying to take out a bad guy with explosives, for example.

When things explode, it hits everything within a given perimeter, both friend and foe alike. You may control when it detonates, but you can’t control who may have ventured into that perimeter beyond what the robot can see.


But who knows? Maybe the police there are onto something and we’ll soon see such robots deployed all over the country. Maybe these explosives will be perfectly effective against the bad guys with minimal risk to the good guys.

Personally, though, I still wish they’d at least put guns on the things. Then we can have a movie that crosses RoboCop with Short Circuit about a police robot who gains sentience and decides the city of San Francisco sucks and starts cleaning it up.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

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