Oakland police say they won't pursue use of 'dystopian' armed robots

The Oakland Police Department this week reversed course on armed robots and said it would not seek approval to use the remote killing machines after initially exploring the idea over a series of meetings.

The issue first surfaced publicly on Sept. 21 during a routine discussion of militarized equipment, when civilian police commissioners, weighing how to amend Police Department rules governing robot use, learned that the department already had a robot armed with a shotgun -- a device known as a PAN disrupter (the acronym is short for "percussion actuated nonelectric").

It is one of several features made possible by the robot's detachable arms, according to police documents submitted to Oakland City Council. The robot has, for example a rotating claw with a telescoping camera, as well as detachable arms for distributing tear gas from canisters.


Apropos of nothing, tear gas is banned by the Geneva Convention.

The gun-shaped PAN disrupter can be filled with projectiles including blank shotgun shells, liquid or live ammunition, and used for purposes like bomb detonation or blowing open locked doors.

"Can a live round physically go in, and what happens if a live round goes in?" asked Jennifer Tu, a member of the commission's subcommittee on militarized policing. "A live round can go in absolutely and you'd be getting a shotgun round," replied Lt. Omar Daza-Quiroz. [...]

"After mulling it over and having conversations with command staff, we decided to remove that option and moved forward with total prohibition," Jordan said.

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8 Responses:

  1. sleep says:

    “…this year”

  2. chaosite says:

    Tear gas is banned by the Geneva convention for use in warfare, but it is absolutely legal for (i.e., the Geneva convention doesn't apply in the case of) law enforcement to use it for, say, riot control.

    That is both true and fucked up.

  3. Asparagino says:

    This looks like it's a glacially slow-to-aim radio-controlled bomb-disposal attachment intended for blowing holes in unattended handbags at very close range. I do have some sympathy for the officer who doesn't want to stand next to a suspect package and shoot it with his own shotgun, and someone's got to get that BART station open again when a suspect package gets called in.

    I would guess most humans would have the good sense to tip over trundlebot before it was pointing anything in their direction, so this is markedly less lethal than all the humans running around with pump-action shotguns or handguns. If I'm wrong and they have an automatic aiming version on a Boston Dynamics dog, then it's definitely game over.

    • metarza says:

      Because it's so easy to "tip over trundle bot" when you're in a tight crowd being attacked by the police.

  4. nooj says:

    I can't wait till "police" "robots" are given official protection, like police dogs are, where "harming" one is tantamount to assualt of a human officer.

  5. thielges says:

    If dystopian armed robots are off the table I guess OPD can still use utopian armed robots.   Or just plain old everyday armed robots.  

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