The advent of police killer robots

“I think we will see similar concerns when we’re talking about the use of robots to employ lethal force,” Stoughton said. For example, in Dallas, the police appear to have faced danger of death or serious bodily harm. But imagine a scenario in which a suspect has been shooting but is not currently firing, and in which all officers are safely covered. In such a case, police would likely not open up a gun battle. But would commanders be quicker to deploy a robot, since there would be less danger to officers? And would current lethal-force rules really justify it? There is reason to believe they would not…

Move away from the realm of remote-controlled devices into the world of autonomous or partially autonomous robots that could deliver lethal, or even non-lethal, force, and the concerns mount. There’s already a heated debate over whether and how the military should deploy lethal, autonomous robots. That debate, too, could transfer to police forces. But as Stoughton noted, law enforcement serves a different purpose than the army.

“The military has many missions, but at its core is about dominating and eliminating an enemy,” he said. “Policing has a different mission: protecting the populace. That core mission, as difficult as it is to explains sometimes, includes protecting some people who do some bad things. It includes not using lethal force when it’s possible to not.”