Last Updated on December 5, 2022 by BVN
S. E. Williams
Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to advance a policy giving the San Francisco Police Department authority to use remote-controlled robots to deliver deadly force in emergency situations. The board is scheduled to take a second vote on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
As one might imagine, there was an intense debate before the vote. Opponents, including civil liberties and a variety of other police oversight groups, expressed serious reservations.
Of particular concern is the very real possibility that such authority could lead to enhanced militarization of police forces that many believe are already too aggressive and all too quick to deploy deadly force especially in situations involving Black and brown people.
Although the San Francisco Police Department claims it has no plans to deploy robots that are pre-armed with guns, it could instead deploy robots that are equipped with explosive charges as a way “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspects” when lives are at risk. This approach would only be taken in extreme circumstances, they proclaim.
In addition, the department insists that only a limited number of high-ranking officers will be authorized to use the robots in such a manner and that even then, only after other alternative force or de-escalation tactics are tried and/or considered.
This proposed dystopian style, remote-controlled police use of deadly force strategy was first deployed in 2016 against a Black man, Micah Xavier Johnson, by the Dallas, Texas Police Department to end a standoff. Johnson was suspected of killing five police officers. They blew him up with a bomb attached to a robot.
Provided San Francisco gives a green light to this strategy, the question becomes how quickly will other police and sheriff departments follow suit?
As long as police and sheriffs continue to use excessive and deadly force indiscriminately against Black and brown citizens, I believe communities should push back against authorization of such strategies, especially one that gives approval to blow people up from a distance.
Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.