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Terminator Time – Oakland Police Want To Arm Robots With Lethal Shotguns

The increasingly dangerous city of Oakland, California, is actually wrestling with the question of whether cops should be able to kill people with shotgun-armed robots.

During a September 21 meeting of an Oakland Police Commission subcommittee, a civilian oversight council addressed what rules should govern the use of the city’s arsenal of military-grade police equipment.

Much of the meeting focused on the equipment being used in modern American policing.

The commissioners debated what are the permissible uses of flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and other now-standard equipment with representatives from the Oakland Police Department.

California law requires police to seek approval from a local governing body, like a city council, to determine permissible uses of military equipment or weapons like stun grenades and drones.

The back-and-forth between the Oakland Police Department and a civilian oversight body concluded with the police tabling their push for official language that would have allowed them to kill humans with robots under certain circumstances. It was a concession to the civilian committee, which pushed to bar arming robots with firearms.

The department said it will continue to pursue lethal options.

When asked whether the Oakland Police Department will continue to advocate for language that would allow killer robots under certain emergency circumstances, Lt. Omar Daza-Quiroz, who represented the department in discussions over the authorized robot use policy, told The Intercept, “Yes, we are looking into that and doing more research at this time.”

Part of the meeting focused on the Oakland police’s robots and their accessories.

One such accessory is the gun-shaped “percussion actuated nonelectric disruptor,” a preferred tool used by bomb squads at home and at war. The PAN disruptor affixes to a robot and directs an explosive force — typically a blank shotgun shell or pressurized water — at suspected bombs while human operators remain at a safe distance.

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While describing the safety precautions taken while using the PAN disruptor, Daza-Quiroz told the subcommittee that the department takes special care to ensure that it is in fact a blank round loaded into the robot’s gun.

Jennifer Tu, a fellow with the American Friends Service Committee and member of the Oakland Police Commission subcommittee on militarized policing, asked: “Can a live round physically go in, and what happens if a live round goes in?”

“Yeah, physically a live round can go in,” Daza-Quiroz answered. “Absolutely. And you’d be getting a shotgun round.”

Commissioner Jesse Hsieh asked the next question: “Does the department plan on using a live round in the robot PAN disruptor?”

The answer was immediately provocative. “No,” Daza-Quiroz said, before quickly pivoting to hypothetical scenarios in which, yes, just such a shotgun-armed robot might be useful to police. “I mean, is it possible we have an active shooter in a place we can’t get to? And he’s fortified inside a house? Or we’re trying to get to a person —”

IT SOON BECAME clear the Oakland Police Department was saying what nearly every security agency says when it asks the public to trust it with an alarming new power: We’ll only use it in emergencies — but we get to decide what’s an emergency.

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