The SF Board of Supervisors unexpectedly reversed their own vote from seven days ago authorizing SFPD to arm robots with lethal explosives, and for good measure, some rabble-rousers tried to shout down the hearing.

Some inside baseball about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: When we in the media say that the supervisors “passed” or “approved” some measure or law, they usually didn’t actually “pass” or “approve” it. They have a bizarre policy of "first reading” and “second reading” by which they vote on legislation in the first reading, but it’s not actually approved until they rubber-stamp it on the second reading, which is generally the following week.

And they freaking never reverse the previous week’s vote, or at least very rarely do so. I watch these damned meetings pretty much every week, and to my recollection, the supervisors have not reversed a previous week’s vote since December 2020, when they reversed their own vote on a ban on smoking in apartments.

But they just did it again today, and on a very significant matter. In a stunning turnaround, the supervisors reversed their vote from last week, and essentially vetoed their own legislation to authorize SFPD to allow robots to use deadly force. That measure now goes back to the board’s Rules Committee, who will presumably tinker with the language before sending it back for another full board vote.

The vote had brought plenty of condemnation from civil liberties groups and the national media. But the first domino to fall was Supervisor Gordon Mar, who just threw one hell of a monkey wrench on his way out the door by announcing Monday he would change his vote on the second reading.

By the time the vote rolled around, Supervisors Connie Chan, Myrna Melgar, Aaron Peskin, and Ahsha Safai also changed their votes from last week.

Bizarrely, very little of the discussion was actually about police or robots. It was mostly a parliamentary word salad about how to revise the vote, add amendments, and how the measure would go back to committee. Consider this quote from Supervisor Peskin: “The balance of the policy 1A5 would be sent back to committee,” Peskin said. “So that was the amendment. The amendment was to take the entire policy, carve out the other 12 policies, just have 1A5, and to send it back to committee.”

“That’s not what we just voted on?” a perplexed Supervisor Shamann Walton asked.

“We just voted on the amendment to the duplicate file,” Deputy City Attorney Anne Pearson explained. “We are now considering what to do with that duplicated ordinance as amended.”

Screenshot: SFGovTV

And at one point, a group of activists held up signs and disrupted the meeting, though from my SFGovTV feed, I could not read their signs nor hear their chants, so I am unsure what their deal was.

As seen above, this whole situation is about as clear as mud right now. And since this thing has already experienced a full flip-flop, who knows if there won’t be more changes to this outcome. But where things stand right now — and boy does this all seem fluid! — the so-called killer robots measure will be sent back to the Rules Committee, which parenthetically, meets this Monday at 10 a.m.

Related: Supervisors Approve SFPD Use of Killer Robots — What Could Go Wrong? [SFist]

Screenshot: SFGovTV