Use of Weaponized Robot to Kill Suspect a Slippery Slope

On Thursday, July 7, a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas turned deadly when a gunman targeted police officers, killing five and wounding several others. The Dallas Police Department acted quickly to identify and corner the suspect, Micah Johnson, in a parking garage. They attempted to negotiate with Johnson, who said his intentions were to kill white people and police officers.

When negotiations soured, Dallas Police Chief David Brown noted in a statement that he saw no other option that would minimize exposure of additional officers to grave danger, and he chose to use a mechanical robot bomb to kill Johnson. Attorney Philip Hilder, founder of Hilder & Associates and former federal prosecutor, and was appointed by former Houston Mayor Parker to the Houston Independent Police Oversight Board, shares his thoughts on the legality of this new method of killing suspects using police robot bombs:

Using weaponized explosive robots by law enforcement presents new questions of whether it is appropriate to use, and if so, at what point. Traditional analysis that lethal force is justified where there is an imminent threat to the officers or others may be the proper analysis. However, in Dallas, was it justified to use deadly force where a gunman is surrounded, in dialogue with authorities, holding no hostages?  Clear rules of engagement to utilize this new policing technology must be established to prevent a slippery slope of killing citizens without the benefit of due process.

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