The unprecedented decision to blast Micah Xavier Johnson, who had killed five officers in one of the worst ambushes against U.S. law enforcement in modern history, was praised as an innovative way to eliminate a threat without risking more officers’ lives, according to the Washington Post.
Police said they came up with the deadly plan in 20 minutes after Johnson said that “the end was coming” and negotiations with him broke down. Their use of a robot is prompting debate about the role of remote-controlled robots in law enforcement and whether their use to deliver lethal force should be left to the discretion of police departments or regulated by state or federal governments. “We’ve crossed a new frontier, and we look out and we see an absence of law and policy,” said Peter Singer of New America, who has written on technology, security and robotics.
That void, some worry, has the potential to lead to overuse of machines that can be used to injure, or kill, suspects.
“Technology can change things,” said Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union. “When things become easier they tend to become overdone, and sometimes you need to reassess rules.” Police officials said robots were simply another tool in the police arsenal, and their use was already subject to strict laws and regulations about lethal force. “Technology cannot override the legal standards governing police use of deadly force,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum.
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