back to article San Francisco lawmakers approve lethal robots – but they can't carry guns

San Francisco police can deploy so-called "killer robots" following a Board of Supervisors' vote on Tuesday, clearing the cops to use robots equipped with explosives in extreme situations. The robots primarily will be used to neutralize and dispose of bombs, and provide video reconnaissance, according to San Francisco …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge

    First option

    Considering American cops can't even go into an active shooter situation to save schoolchildren, I assume this will be the first course of action for anything above a parking ticket.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: First option

      You mean a specific department in Texas was too afraid to rescue children from an active shooter.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: First option

        Indeed. Normally when they outnumber someone that heavily the pigs are happy to go in all guns blazing.

        But then in this situation the target was awake and armed and not lying in bed asleep.....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: First option

          Presumably the cameras on cruise missiles are now good enough that they can detect skin color ?

      2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: First option

        Or, say, Colorado? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre I'm afraid this is NOT a completely isolated thing.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thought exercise

    In the article, where it says San Francisco, substitute for Beijing or Teheran, then read it again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thought exercise

      Do that sort of thing in Beijing and you'll be hauled over the coals ... robots ain't free.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: substitute for Beijing or Teheran, then read it again.

      And.....?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thought exercise

      ""If you change the words in a sentence, the meaning changes ""

      Congratulations, you've figured out how words work!

    4. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: Thought exercise

      And what's the difference? All three are third world totalitarian shitholes where only the party members have rights.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Thought exercise

        Except San Francisco is a first world democratic socialist city/county, with delusions of grandeur. And party members (whatever THAT means in this context!) have no rights. Only the connected and the criminals have rights, with the homeless and the GLBT+57 being used as pawns in the games of the wealthy.

        It is a shithole, though. I'll give you that.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Something to keep in mind.

    These aren't autonomous robots. They are remote controlled devices, controlled by cops. They do not pull the trigger themselves, rather a cop decides to push the button. And cop supervisors decide when and where to deploy them. They are expensive, and will never be used on a mere whim.

    Why San Francisco wimped out on this obvious enabling of longer reach of the long arm of the law, WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger, is beyond me.

    Well, not really beyond me. San Francisco is the single most fucked up of all US cities, bar none. It has gotten to the the point where criminals are far more important than mere citizens, and this is yet another symptom of that foul policy.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

      Yeah, cos your pigs don't just randomly kill innocent people.....

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

        Wouldn't it be cheaper to just equip the police dept with artillery?

        I think estimates form Ukraine are that an unguided 155mm round is $300-500, surely that's a cost effective way of dealing with miscreants ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

          > Wouldn't it be cheaper to just equip the police dept with artillery?

          That's the Sledge Hammer approach.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

            But much more cost effective, and much safer for the police officers, than storming a high school with an active shooter.

            1. MiguelC Silver badge

              Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

              Just extremely unsafe for the other people in the premises - the children and teachers in that case

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

              > But much more cost effective, and much safer for the police officers, than storming a high school with an active shooter.

              And also, what if they can't find an active shooter to storm it with?

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

          "I think estimates form Ukraine are that an unguided 155mm round is $300-500, surely that's a cost effective way of dealing with miscreants ?"

          I can see that it would be cost effective to reduce graffiti but perhaps repairing the wall/building/train car would run the costs up too much.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: WITHOUT putting anyone but the perp into danger,

        MY pigs? Eh?

        Not mine. I wouldn't live in that hell-hole if they offered me seven figures to move in.

        Nice to see you channeling your inner Yippie, though. I'm sure Abbie Hoffman would be SO proud.

    2. JoeCool Bronze badge

      n balance, Police discretion ...

      is often shoot first, then you don't have to answer questions.

      THAT's the problem.

      Go do a search on how often a cop in North America states that he 'felt threatened' to get legal deniability for his actions.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: n balance, Police discretion ...

        So if a cop was operating from a drone control trailer 500miles away he wouldn't feel threatened and so wouldn't need to kill every $ETHNIC$ he encountered

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: n balance, Police discretion ...

          Not to tar everyone with the same brush, but…

          > So if a cop was operating from a drone control trailer 500miles away he wouldn't feel threatened

          …some of them definitely would.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: n balance, Police discretion ...

        "Go do a search on how often a cop ::does something perceived as negative::"

        Now go do a search on how often a cop DOES NOT.

        The first stat is meaningless without the second.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    Terminator

    THX1138

    Hi, I'm a robot.

    Don't make me angry.

    You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Doors. I hate doors...

      Or paranoid and depressed!

  5. Lil Endian Silver badge

    Ordnance Options

    NB: I am not commenting on the overall use of remote controlled devices for law enforcement, just on the choice of ordnance.

    So, explosives are in, firearms are out (for now). Well, I can kind of see that. The proximity to the target required for explosives vs remote firearm use. And if, prior to deployment, the operators of said device screw up, they're at some risk themselves. So pay attention, eh!

    I guess the choice is about ensuring the target is completely deleted and overwritten with zeroes. Non-lethal? Nah, we're not ready to reveal our latest microwave technology, thank you.

  6. b0llchit Silver badge
    Coat

    They said it was safe

    All is fine... Until it blows up in your face.

  7. Tubz Silver badge

    ED209 on every street corner, crime rates = 0%, arrested perps = 0%, morgue capacity = 100%, cops on payroll = 2% to shuffle paperwork

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But still the same number of cops, unless you want the Police Union to pay a visit, with their new 'hardware'

      1. jake Silver badge

        This is San Francisco. Last I heard, they were down something like 450 officers, not including about 50 idiots who still refuse to comply with the Covid vaccination mandate. Unions don't help much in the raw numbers department.

  8. AnotherName
    Pirate

    Not armed

    How long before the robots start demanding their right to carry weapons?

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not armed

      "You have the right to bear arms, and the right to arm bears!"

      RIP RW

  9. Ken G Silver badge
    Trollface

    No firearms!

    Machetes and chain saws only.

  10. TheRealRoland
    WTF?

    News article, soon, i'm sure.

    "We sent in the robot, armed with guns. Upon entering the premises, we lost contact with the robot, which switched over into its automation mode, and due to a glitch in the programming, fired indiscriminately into the group of hostages. We're looking at additional training for the operators to not have this happen anymore." - spox, SFPD

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

      This kind of thing happened back in the day in Chad, IIRC (or was it Djibouti?)

      French embassy school bus hijacked with the diplomatic personnel's children inside. The GIGN was sent to deal with the situation. To the GIGN's horror, at the same time some bright spark minister noticed that the legion were close by and ordered them sent over "to assist". They just killed about everyone: kidnappers, children, the bus driver, …

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

        I also recall 6–7 years ago when it was en vogue to have military patrols in public spaces in France (because "terrorism") and someone decided that the legion should do their bit too.

        They got pulled out after one day.

        I was listening to the radio and there was this guy who apparently walked up to a legionnaire to ask for directions. The response, in a thick foreign accent:

        — On n'est pas ici pour renseigner. On est ici pour tuer.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

        >ordered them sent over "to assist". They just killed about everyone: kidnappers, children, the bus driver, …

        I believe the US military equivalent is to ask a unit to "secure" a building:

        The Marines will storm the building and shoot everyone.

        The Army will mount a guard

        The Navy will fit a padlock

        The USAF will take out a 20 year lease on the property with a buyout option index linked to bond yields.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

          > The Marines will storm the building and shoot everyone.

          For some definition of "storm" and only after the air force have bombed the place into oblivion.

          The difference though is that the Americans do it out of incompetence and/or cowardice. The legion are just trained that way.

          (I had the displeasure of working with the former and the discomfort of working with the latter.)

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

            I think there was a similar case in the USA. IIRC A police dept bomb disposal unit was being assisted by an army/national guard unit. They asked for 'cover' which in the green shirts' doctrine meant unload all your weapons into the target.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

              "you think" and "if you remember correctly"

              How about find the facts, and THEN report them?

            2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

              That's what "cover" means when you are on the playground and eight years old.

              Cover fire is intended to be enough to keep the enemy pinned and unable to observe the battlefield. Set your gun to three round bursts and fire when you see movement.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

        "This kind of thing happened back in the day"

        What, people with wild imaginations fanning the flames of the ignorant unwashed's fears? Has been happening for over ten thousand years. It's called "religion".

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

      ::sighs::

      The robots have no "automation mode" (whatever the fuck that is), and don't carry guns.

      But do keep up the hyperbole. I;m sure you're entertaining someone, somewhere.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

        Yet.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

          Again, hyperbole. Unless you can show me the plans SFPD have for implementing this, of course.

          "Everybody knows" doesn't count.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: News article, soon, i'm sure.

            If someone finds Jake's medicines, please report to reception.

            Lighten up mate, people are just making fun of a pretty depressing bit of news, that's all.

  11. doublelayer Silver badge

    Possible unintended consequence

    On at least a few occasions, people who were too dangerous to approach directly have been contacted by sending in a robot carrying something they needed or demanded or just a phone. This starts the process of attempting to end the situation peacefully, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. I wonder if this law will lead to paranoia from hostage takers or similar people that every robot is armed with explosives. On the other hand, anyone insane enough to take hostages in the first place is probably not thinking too clearly, so even if any weaponized robots were illegal, they might assume whatever they wanted about any attempt to communicate. It's hard to legislate on the basis of what crazy people will think, but possibly worth considering whether there is an increased risk and whether that would outweigh the benefits they imagine.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Possible unintended consequence

      The first thing they wheel in with the RC vehicle is often pizza. Soothes the wildest beast.

  12. lowwall

    Optional Austrian accent?

    "Sarah Conner"

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Optional Austrian accent?

      Sorry, nothing like that. It's just the voice of the operator ... who is usually a trained hostage negotiator. These days, they often have a screen so the perp can see the face of the operator, too ... puts a human face on it, and helps to lessen tension.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Optional Austrian accent?

        > a trained hostage negotiator.

        Why do you need someone to negotiate with the hostages?

  13. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Daleks

    Exterminate! Exterminate!

  14. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Cheap, fast, simple

    A bot can be useful for certain things that might put an officer in danger. They can have a camera on a stick to look around corners or in windows. I can remember plenty of times when the perp offed himself and police stood by for hours as they didn't know and didn't want to risk an officer getting shot. If the bot isn't armed, who cares if it has expensive and twitchy encrypted data link? Just stick the thing together with off the shelf RC components. A bot could be fitted with a really bright strobe to act as a diversion. Put some really loud speakers on it too for that matter. The idea is to have something that is so cheap that a PD can have a few of them and so simple to repair with common parts that they can go in harms way, get banged up and be back in a car boot the next day or so. While I'd really dig seeing an ED-209 stomping around, only a big city PD would have them and then only one along with a special operator that always seems to be on overtime when called out.

  15. Robert 22

    I am reminded of the mechanical hounds in Fahrenheit 451.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Go see what Boston Dynamics is doing ... particularly Big Dog and Spot.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "Go see what Boston Dynamics is doing ... particularly Big Dog and Spot."

        What you won't get to see are the projects that companies such as Foster-Miller are working on. BD's projects are very benign, but that police departments and militaries will be interested in are much harder to find information about. There are lots of them too. I think the number of drone development companies is starting to contract, but for some time there were all sorts gunning for (pun) police and military contracts and living on investor money.

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