Using a Bomb Robot to Kill a Suspect Is an Unprecedented Shift in Policing

A police standoff with a suspect in the killing of five police officers in Dallas came to an abrupt end on Friday morning in an unusual way. The police said that negotiations broke down, an exchange of gunfire happened, but then they had no option but to use “bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was.” Motherboard explains the unprecedented shift in policing. From an article: Peter W. Singer, an expert in military technology and robot warfare at the New America Foundation, tweeted that this is the first known incident of a domestic police force using a robot to kill a suspect. Singer tweeted that in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have strapped claymore mines to the $8,000 MARCbot using duct tape to turn them into jury-rigged killing devices. Singer says all indications are that the Dallas Police Department did something similar in this case — it improvised to turn a surveillance robot into a killing machine. Improvised device or not, the concerns here mirror a debate that’s been going on for a few years now: Should law enforcement have access to armed drones, or, for that matter, weaponized robots? In 2013 Kentucky Senator Rand Paul staged a 13-hour filibuster that was focused entirely on concerns about the use of armed drones on US soil. Last year, North Dakota became the first state to legalize nonlethal, weaponized drones for its police officers. […] The ability for police to remotely kill suspects raises due process concerns. If a shooter is holed up and alone, can they be qualified as an imminent threat to life? Are there clear protocols about when a robot can be used to engage a suspect versus when a human needs to engage him or her? When can the use of lethal force be administered remotely?


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