Police in San Francisco will be allowed to use remote-controlled robots that can kill, despite fierce opposition from civil liberties groups.
Opponents of the move claimed it would further militarize a police force that is already overly aggressive toward poor and minority communities.
The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) says it does not have pre-armed robots and has no plans to arm robots with guns.
When lives are at stake, however, the department may use robots equipped with explosive charges “to contact, incapacitate, or disorient violent, armed, or dangerous suspects,” according to SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie.
“Robots equipped in this manner would only be used in extreme circumstances to save or prevent further loss of innocent lives,” she said.
The police force currently has a dozen ground robots, used to assess bombs or provide reconnaissance in low visibility environments.
However explicit authorisation to use robots as a type of force was required after a new California law went into effect this year requiring police and sheriffs departments to inventory military-grade equipment and seek approval for their use.