San Francisco is known for its scenic beauty, its many cultural attractions… and now, its remote-controlled robots armed with explosives. That’s right, the City by the Bay is now home to a new type of law enforcement officer: the remote-controlled robot.
Capable of delivering a controlled explosion, these high-tech machines are being used to resolve hostage situations. And while some may see them as a sign of the times, others view them as a dangerous precedent.
“Some of the supervisors said they are concerned police will disproportionately use lethal robots on Black and other people of color,” The Week reported.
Supervisor Connie Chan stated, “According to state law, we are required to approve the use of these equipments. So here we are, and it’s definitely not a [sic] easy discussion.”
But Democrat Shamann Wilson, president of the Board of Supervisors, contended, “Most law enforcement weapons are used against people of color. I’m really just stunned that we’re here talking about this.”
Supporters of the use of these robots argue that they offer a safe and effective way to resolve dangerous situations, and that they have the potential to save lives.
There was actually an incident back in 2016 where a robot with explosives was used against a sniper in Dallas, Texas.
The Oakland Police Department had considered using similar robots but backtracked after the idea elicited harsh reaction. “The only known use of lethal robots by a U.S. police department was in Dallas in 2016, when police used a robot armed with explosives to kill a sniper who had ambushed and killed five officers,” The Week noted.
That sniper was caught in a parking garage and killed by police with a robot-operated pound of C-4 explosive which was guided by an extending arm toward her suspect. Dallas Police Chief David Brown stated, “You have to trust your people to make the calls. We believe that we saved lives by making this decision,” adding, “I appreciate critics, but they’re not on the ground, their lives are not being put at risk by debating what tactics to take.”
So, what does this mean for the future of law enforcement? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure: the days of traditional law enforcement are numbered.