Chicago aldermen question police about controversial ShotSpotter technology

John Garcia Image
Saturday, November 13, 2021
Chicago aldermen question police about ShotSpotter use
Chicago police answered questions about the controversial ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology from city aldermen Friday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago aldermen got the chance to question police officers about the department's controversial ShotSpotter program Friday.

Activists gathered to listen to the meeting and prepared signs in opposition to ShotSpotter technology.

They marched down the street to the office of 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro, who held the committee meeting looking as ShotSpotter and other technologies. And during public comment they spoke as a group, chanting: "Cancel the contract with ShotSpotter."

SEE ALSO | Chicago IG report finds CPD investigations of ShotSpotter alerts 'rarely' find gun crimes

A Chicago Inspector General report found issues with the way the Chicago Police Department responds to ShotSpotter reports.

Opponents say ShotSpotter towers are discriminatory because the overwhelming majority of them are placed in Black and brown neighborhoods in the city. They question the company's multimillion dollar contract with the city.

"There are so many other ways we could spend $9 million that would prevent violence rather than continue to fuel the expansion of CPD and their reach," said Alex Goodwin, with the Coalition to Cancel ShotSpotter.

Police monitor the ShotSpotter technology in conjunction with pod cameras and other technology. They say these pods are placed in neighborhoods where they have the greatest amount of violent crime.

ShotSpotter representatives say the technology allows police to move immediately rather than wait for 911 calls, cutting their response time in half. And they say the technology can pinpoint gunshots to within three feet.

"This time differential could mean the difference between life or death for someone bleeding out as a result of a gunshot," said Andrew Grayson.

15th Ward Alderman Ray Lopez said Chicago Police need technology including ShotSpotter to help make up for the shortage of officers. He said the department is down about 1,000 officers from what they are budgeted right now.

"The last thing any of us want to do is strip technology our officers rely on to keep our residents safe," Lopez said.

While some activists want to get rid of it, that's not likely to happen soon. The city recently renewed its contract with ShotSpotter for three more years.