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Killer police robots prove San Francisco can be saved

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For years in San Francisco, the use of killer robots was a gray area, neither condoned nor condemned. State law Assembly Bill 481, which passed in 2021, gave local authorities oversight over any military-style weapons and equipment, ostensibly an attempt by California’s lefty-loony politicians to act as a nanny state against the police. But the majority of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, long labeled as lefty loonies themselves, wisely took advantage of AB 481 to craft a different path: They’ve endorsed the further militarization of our police force. They chose innovation and disruption over fearmongering. They proved their mettle. Despite smear attempts, they’re loudly affirming they’re not wacky progressives, or liberals, or even left of center. They’ve aligned with other tough-on-crime politicians like Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, who’ve long known the only way to disincentive criminals is to kill more of them. And now, as a result, we have robocops on our side.

The final language of the draft policy passed by the Board of Supervisors includes some annoying qualifications. Guns are not allowed on our robocops for the time being — a disappointing, though understandable, concession to hippies and tree-huggers who try to guilt-trip the police and concerned citizens about there being “too many ways” for cops to kill people. Hopefully, in the near future, San Francisco’s robocops will get the weaponry upgrades they deserve so they’re better protected against criminals, too. These are expensive pieces of equipment, and it’s of paramount importance we keep them safe.

For now, the killer robots can only be used in specific situations, “as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers are imminent and outweigh any other force option available to SFPD.” Only SFPD’s police chief and top deputies can approve the usage of the killer robots, which is an unfortunate extra layer of bureaucracy that needs to be removed posthaste. 

Luckily, the robocops can at least be equipped with explosives, which SFPD cleverly referred to as an “intermediate force option” that could maybe, in some cases, be lethal. Obviously, explosives are more than an “intermediate force option,” but the watered-down language was instrumental in the passage of the policy, so it all worked out.

The three “no” votes here are deeply misguided and shameful. Supervisor Dean Preston said the killer robots aren’t necessary and other supervisors are falling for “nonsensical hypotheticals.” He’s apparently upset that SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar cited the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting as the sort of event that could’ve benefited from the presence of a killer robot. Preston believes that logistically speaking, the killer robot wouldn’t have been of any benefit, and potentially blowing up part of a hotel (where the shooter was perched) might not be advisable. 

Supervisor Preston is being shortsighted. Perhaps there’s a kernel of truth to his concern; turning a hotel into a fire pit could’ve possibly caused additional catastrophic damage and loss of life. There’s only way to find out, though. Practice makes perfect; killer robots, like anyone else — actors, high-level athletes, chefs — need their reps.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, another “no” vote, complained that SFPD has killed 58 people since 2000 and thus can’t be trusted. But if you want police officers to stop killing people, wouldn’t the solution be to have robots kill people instead? 

Luckily, Supervisor Catherine Stefani, a tough-on-crime voice of reason, set the record straight. “What bothers me about this conversation is the false narrative, the rhetoric surrounding this is disingenuous and lacks context,” she correctly stated. “The militarization of our society has already exploded. … There were over 600 mass shootings this year.”

Exactly. Ideas like enforcing gun control laws, or addressing income inequality to increase people’s quality of life, are nothing more than pie-in-the-sky platitudes. We need to be thinking realistically about how to combat criminals. That means ensuring SFPD can turn San Francisco into a war zone at any given moment by using robocops. Killer robots equipped with explosives are exactly the kind of forward-thinking policing this city needs. Thank goodness the brave members of our Board of Supervisors agree.

Editor’s note: If you made it this far, hopefully you picked up on the fact that this column is satire.


David Dreyfus