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New San Francisco ruling lets police use killer robots (updated)

Police can strap bombs to robots to thwart bad guys in emergency situations.

Robot showing emotions
Image: KnowTechie

UPDATE 12/7/2022 8:23 AM ET: San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has now reversed course on the use of deadly force robots after the second round of required voting. Further amendments to the proposal are expected, however.

San Francisco supervisors recently passed a vote allowing police officers to use potentially deadly remote-control robots in certain emergencies.

The vote took place earlier this week and resulted in an 8-3 verdict, with most supervisors approving the use of robots.

The proposal was passed despite pushback from many who opposed the idea. Opponents are concerned that this would further militarize the police. That’s something that many civil liberties and oversight groups do not like.

San francisco police robot
A robot similar to the ones used by San Francisco police (Image: South Morning China Post)

The vote came as California passed a new law requiring police departments to inventory and seek approval for military-grade equipment.

San Francisco’s police department currently has a dozen functioning robots. But it has never used them to deliver explosive devices or deadly force.

But the new vote gives the department the authority to use those robots in a deadly manner, following California state law.

Specifically by using explosive charges to “contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspects.”

According to the San Francisco Police Department, “Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives.”

Still, there is pushback from the community. The San Francisco Public Defender’s office sent a letter to supervisors requesting to reinstate language that would prevent officers from using robots with deadly force.

Keeping citizens safe and protecting their rights to privacy over excessive police oversight is always a balancing act.

San Francisco’s killer robot law aims to protect citizens in emergency situations.

However, giving police access to explosive robots doesn’t sit right with many people, especially considering the climate around the police in recent years.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at

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