Chicago City Council votes on future of ShotSpotter, delays decision on CTA president

Vote on RTA board nominee also held

Thursday, May 23, 2024
City Council votes on ShotSpotter, delays CTA president decision
The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday on the future of ShotSpotter technology, but Mayor Brandon Johnson said they don't have executive authority.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Aldermen pushed for more answers on ShotSpotter technology at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

The City Council essentially voted to take control over ShotSpotter's future, but how it will all play out is yet to be determined after Mayor Brandon Johnson called the vote "illegal."

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Mayor Johnson said he will be ending the city's contract with the company this fall.

Chicago police say the gunshot detection is an important tool in crime fighting. Now some alderman want more research done.

Mayor Johnson said the gunshot detection technology has little impact on solving or preventing crime and it's costly. He has vowed to cancel the technology contract by the fall.

But a group of about 30 City Council members have been pushing back advocating to keep it, saying ShotSpotter allows police to respond to crime quickly and can even save lives.

SEE ALSO: ShotSpotter supporters push to keep technology in Chicago after Democratic National Convention

That group introduced an order in City Council Wednesday to mandate the continuation of the contract beyond the fall and collect more data that show the benefits of how the system operates.

"We have to assert our authority on this, and so that's what this is an attempt to do," Alderman Brian Hopkins, chairman of the Chicago Public Safety Committee, said. "It's an attempt to tell the mayor we disagree on this, but there's a clear majority that want ShotSpotter, and so we're going to go forward despite the mayor's opposition."

The ordinance passed, meaning data will be collected through the end of the contract in November.

The ordinance also said that if the city wants to remove ShotSpotter from any ward, the full Council would have to vote.

Mayor Johnson argues that the ordinance isn't legal. He could veto the decision.

"This particular measure that was voted on today did nothing. This City Council and the legislative body does not have the executive authority," Johnson said.

As promised during his campaign, Johnson was determined to end the contract for the gun-detection system, arguing the money is better spent on violence prevention.

"Sometimes you have to break campaign promises you just need to break for what's in the best interest of the entire city and not just a select few," 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale said.

Thirty four members of City Council voted against the mayor Wednesday.

"I think it's important that we look at alternative ways to address safety," 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez said. "I think prevention is key. we know that we need to do a lot more in very specific areas of the city of Chicago where we see a lot of the violence."

ShotSpotter supporters, including Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling, said because many people do not call 911 when they hear gunshots, the technology allows police to respond to crime scenes faster and potentially save lives, especially in situations with multiple shots.

"Ninety shots, six shooters, not one person called police, so this is safe for the DNC, not for my constituents," Ald. Monique Scott said.

ABC7 Political Analyst Laura Washington discusses the ShotSpotter debate in City Council.

A spokesperson with ShotSpotter's parent company SoundThinking issued the following statement:

"We are deeply grateful for the groundswell of public support and the City Council decision today which will enhance CPD's collection, analysis, and public reporting on ShotSpotter gunfire-related data. We support greater transparency, which will allow Chicago's elected officials and community leaders to fully assess the outcomes of gunshot detection, a critical component of the City's public safety infrastructure that ultimately helps save lives and address gun violence. We are committed to serving the citizens of Chicago to quickly respond to criminal gunfire incidents to drive more effective, efficient, and equitable public safety outcomes."

Johnson doubled down in a press conference after Wednesday's Council meeting.

Mayor Johnson spoke after City Council voted on ShotSpotter Wednesday.

"My administration isn't coming up short. We're not. I canceled ShotSpotter, it's canceled," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, Alderman Andre Vasquez introduced a resolution Wednesday calling for the resignation of CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. Vazquez said he has dozens of council members who support it.

SEE ALSO | Chicago City Council committee passes ordinance that could keep ShotSpotter in some wards

The 40th Ward alderman said Carter, who makes more than $375,000 a year, has not been able to address safety, service shortfalls and falling ridership numbers.

"So, although President Carter has done a good job of getting funds and doing larger infrastructure projects, when it comes to the customer service part of the role, which is about increasing ridership and we need reliability and safety, it's time for new leadership," Alderman Vazquez said.

The CTA has said the information in the resolution is inaccurate and misleading, saying ridership is trending upwards, and crime is decreasing.

The resolution could come up for a full City Council vote as early as June.

It was sent to the Rules Committee Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: ShotSpotter supporters push to keep technology in Chicago after Democratic National Convention

The Council also held and didn't vote on Mayor Johnson's controversial RTA board nominee, the Rev. Ira Acree.