What Happens When Police Robots Violate the Constitution? Revisiting the Qualified Immunity Standard for Excessive Force Litigation Under § 1983 Regarding Violations Perpetrated by Robots

Vid Sankar · 20 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. 947

Abstract

Public concern surrounding excessive use of force by police officers and the overmilitarization of the police continues to grow. The use of police robots, both with and without artificial intelligence capabilities, is already transforming the practice of policing. Police use of robots gained national attention on July 7, 2016, when Dallas police used a robot to disarm and kill an active shooter who killed five and injured several others in a hostage situation. The qualified immunity doctrine was designed to protect police officers, but under the Supreme Court’s current qualified immunity framework, police robots may pose a challenge to accomplishing that goal. This Note suggests a two-pronged approach to the problem: (1) lessening the burden of proof for plaintiffs to defeat qualified immunity claims in excessive force cases where robots use force, and (2) carving out an exigent circumstances exception to the heightened standard.