Plan to equip American police in the city with armed robots is sent back to the drawing board after city council members say they were having second thoughts.

Last week's announcement sparked headlines around the world, with some making comparisons with dystopian sci-fi like
Last week's announcement sparked headlines around the world, with some making comparisons with dystopian sci-fi like "Terminator" and "Black Mirror." (AP Archive)

San Francisco supervisors have voted to put the brakes on a controversial policy that would let police use "killer robots" for deadly force.

The Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday unanimously to ban the use of robots in such a fashion explicitly, but they sent the issue back to a committee for further discussion and could allow it in limited cases at another time.

It's a reversal from last week's vote allowing the use of robots in limited cases.

The police said they had no plans to arm the robots with guns but wanted the ability to put explosives on them in extraordinary circumstances.

Last week's approval generated pushback and criticism about the potential to deploy robots that can kill people.

On Monday, several supervisors joined dozens of protestors outside City Hall to urge the board to change course.

Some supervisors said they felt the public did not have enough time to discuss whether robots could be used to kill people before the board first voted last week.

READ MORE: San Francisco police get clearance to deploy deadly robots

People's disapproval 

The vote resulted from a new state law requiring police departments to inventory military-grade equipment and seek approval for its use.

Supervisor Dean Preston, who voted against the policy last week, said the spirit of the law is to make sure “strong feelings people hold" can be heard by public officials.

He argued the board failed to allow enough time for that.

But others said nothing substantive had changed since the board voted, and the policy should hold.

The policy approved on Tuesday would allow police to use robots to check out potentially dangerous scenes so that police can stay back.

"Having robots that have eyes and ears and can remove bombs, which happens from time to time, is something that we want the police department to do while we continue to have this very controversial discussion," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who brought forward last week's motion around the use of robots.

"Last week, despite some ethical concerns, I did support the legislation but over the past week I feel extremely uncomfortable about it," Gordon Mar said.

"I do not think armed and remote robots will make us safer."

The new policy needs another vote to take effect.

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Source: AP