EFF is announcing a letter signed by 44 community groups who stand united in opposition to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors authorizing the San Francisco Police Department to deploy deadly force with remote-control robots. The signers include racial justice groups, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, LGBTQ organizations, and labor unions.
You can read the entire letter here.
From the letter:
SFPD’s proposal, if approved, threatens the privacy and safety of city residents and visitors. Police in the United States have killed 1,054 people in the last year. Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to be killed during police encounters. San Francisco is no exception; according to Mapping Police Violence, from 2013 to 2021, Black people were 9.7 times as likely and Latinx people were 4.3 times as likely to be killed by SFPD as a white person by population. According to Mission Local, from 2000 to 2021, over 30 percent of fatal police shootings in San Francisco killed Black people, even though Black people were only about 5 percent of the city’s population. And despite California having one of the strongest laws governing police use of deadly force in the country, unarmed people and bystanders are killed with disturbing frequency.
There is no basis to believe that robots toting explosives might be an exception to police overuse of deadly force. Using robots that are designed to disarm bombs to instead deliver them is a perfect example of this pattern of escalation, and of the militarization of the police force that concerns so many across the city.
We thank all of the groups who signed onto this letter, and the many groups and residents who attended today’s Stop Killer Robots rally outside of city hall. We again commend Supervisors Walton, Ronen, and Preston for their continued leadership in support of civil rights and civil liberties issues.
The policy passed with a vote of 8-to-3 last week, but is not effective without another vote at the Board of Supervisor meeting on Tuesday, December 6. Responding to public outcry, Supervisor Mar announced he will be changing his vote. We thank him for doing so, and urge other members of the Board to do the same.
Residents must continue reaching out to their supervisors and tell them to vote against SFPD’s killer robots. You can find an email contact for your Board of Supervisors member here, and determine which Supervisor to contact here. Here’s text you can use (or edit):
Do not give SFPD permission to kill people with robots. This broad policy would allow police to bring armed robots to every arrest, and every execution of a warrant to search a house or vehicle or device. Depending on how police choose to define the words “critical” or “exigent,” police might even bring armed robots to a protest. While police could only use armed robots as deadly force when the risk of death is imminent, this problematic legal standard has often been under-enforced by courts and criticized by activists. For the sake of your constituents’ rights and safety, please vote no.
Matthew Guariglia is a policy analyst working on issues of surveillance and policing at the local, state, and federal level. He received a PhD in history at the University of Connecticut where his research focused on the intersection of race, immigration, U.S. imperialism, and policing in New York City. He is the co-editor of The Essential Kerner Commission Report (Liveright, 2021) and his bylines have appeared in NBC News, the Washington Post, Slate, Motherboard, and the Freedom of Information-centered outlet Muckrock. Matthew is an affiliated scholar at University of California, Hastings-School of Law and serves as an editor of “Disciplining the City,” a series on the history of urban policing and incarceration at the Urban History Association’s blog The Metropole.
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