Following an emotionally charged debate that revealed splits on the politically left board over support for law enforcement, San Francisco’s supervisors decided on Tuesday to grant municipal police the ability to use potentially lethal, remote-controlled robots in emergency scenarios.

8 out of 3 people voted in favor of giving police the option, overriding the vocal opposition of civil liberties and other police oversight organizations. The powers, according to opponents, would further militarize a police force that is already overly hostile toward poor and minority populations.

Although she acknowledged concerns about the use of force, Supervisor Connie Chan, a member of the committee that sent the proposal to the entire board, stated that “according to state law, we are compelled to allow the use of these equipments.” So here we are, having a conversation that is undoubtedly difficult.

According to the San Francisco Police Department, there are no robots that are already armed and there are no plans to arm robots with weapons. However, if lives are at risk, the agency may send out robots armed with explosive charges “to confront, incapacitate, or disorient belligerent, armed, or dangerous suspect,” according to SFPD spokesman Allison Maxie.

Robots outfitted in this way, according to her, would only be employed in dire situations to save or stop the loss of further innocent lives.

Supervisors changed the proposal on Tuesday to state that police could only use robots if they had exhausted all other forms of force or de-escalation techniques or had come to the conclusion that they would not be able to subdue the subject using those methods. Robot use as a form of lethal force could only be approved by a small group of senior authorities.

According to the department, San Francisco police presently has twelve operational ground robots that are used to examine bombs or act as eyes in dimly light environments. According to police sources, they were purchased between 2010 and 2017 and have never been utilized to deliver an explosive device.

But after a new California law took effect this year requiring police and sheriffs agencies to inventory military-grade weaponry and request clearance for its usage, express authorization was needed.

David Chiu, the city attorney for San Francisco, wrote the state bill last year while serving in the assembly. The Act aims to provide the public with a platform and a voice in the purchase and use of military-grade weapons that have a harmful impact on communities.

For years, grenade launchers, camouflage gear, bayonets, armored vehicles, and other excess military gear have been sent by the federal government to assist local law enforcement.

After Barack Obama scaled back the Pentagon program in 2015, in part due to criticism over the use of military equipment during riots in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting death of Michael Brown, then-President Donald Trump issued an order restarting it in 2017.

According to San Francisco police, some robots were bought with federal grant money but none were acquired from military surplus, as of late on Tuesday.

San Francisco, like many other cities across the country, is working to strike a balance between important civil liberties like the right to privacy and the freedom from overbearing police surveillance. Supervisors approved a trial run in September that would give police limited access to private security camera feeds in real time.

Members on both sides accused one another of reckless fear mongering during the more than two hours-long debate on Tuesday.

Rafael Mandelman, a supervisor who supported the policy permission, expressed his concern over claims that the police force is hazardous and unreliable.

When progressives and progressive programs appear to the public as being anti-police, he continued, “I think there are bigger problems highlighted.” “I believe that is detrimental to progressives. I believe it is detrimental to our Board of Supervisors. I believe it is detrimental to Democrats in general.

Shamann Walton, the board president, argued that his vote against the motion did not make him pro-police but rather “pro people of color.”

He claimed that “we are always being pushed to do things in the name of expanding weaponry and chances for unfavorable interactions between the police department and people of color.” Simply put, this is one of those things.

Giving police “the capacity to kill community members remotely,” according to a letter the San Francisco Public Defender’s office delivered to the board on Monday, is against the progressive principles of the city. The office requested that the board reinstate the clause that forbids police from utilizing robots to commit acts of violence against anyone.

The Oakland Police Department has abandoned a similar plan on the other side of the San Francisco Bay following criticism from the general population.

In 2016, Dallas police sent in an armed robot that murdered a sniper who was holed up and had just killed five officers in an ambush. This was the first time a robot has been used to deliver explosives in the United States.