“It might be justified to use remotely controlled robots to apply lethal force where such force is justified,” Jay Stanley, a senior legal analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union told me. “As a legal matter, the choice of weapon in a decision to use lethal force does not change the constitutional calculus, which hinges on whether an individual poses an imminent threat to others, and whether the use of lethal force is reasonable under the circumstances.”
Dallas police chief David Brown told reporters Friday that the force “saw no other option than to use our bomb robot” to kill Johnson, and said that prior to using the bomb, Johnson and officers on the force exchanged gunfire.
“It is essentially a jury-rigged version of a drone strike,” Ryan Calo, a University of Washington School of Law professor specializing in cyber and robotic law, told me. “If they would have been justified in throwing a grenade, then they’re likely justified in doing this, which was quite frankly a creative thing.”