PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A community oversight group for PPB submitted a recommendation to Mayor Wheeler’s office Monday suggesting the city use ShotSpotter — a controversial gunshot detection tool.
Leaders with the Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group (FITCOG) said they think ShotSpotter could be a useful tool to help address gun violence.
While the proposal comes with a list of conditions the city must meet to implement the technology, several community leaders argue the evidence just doesn’t show the technology would be equitable or effective.
As the city’s new gun violence analysis shows shootings and homicides have skyrocketed in the last three years, PPB’s FITCOG believes ShotSpotter may help.
“This technology will be present to aid and assist officers to have a more succinct and specific response to gunfire heard, perhaps underreported, but definitely will be responded to,” said FITCOG Vice Chair Kimberely Dixon.
ShotSpotter technology claims their gun-shot detection tool uses microphones on light posts to alert officers to the location of gunfire. And while ShotsSpotter has been used in more than 200 cities, the technology and its effectiveness have received major pushback in cities like Chicago.
Last year, Chicago’s Office of Inspector General analyzed more than 41,000 ShotSpotter alerts and found that “responses to ShotSpotter alerts rarely produce evidence of a gun-related crime, rarely give rise to investigatory stops, and even less frequently lead to the recovery of gun crime-related evidence during an investigatory stop.”
The audit also found the technology led to increased stops in communities of color and changed police behavior — a major concern echoed by Kat Mahoney, a legal observer for the ACLU of Oregon.
“As it is now the number of calls that BOEC gets are overwhelming, and the police can’t respond so now if they’re responding to audio sounds that may or may not be gunshots,” she said.
Mahoney calls the technology “lazy policing” and argues the $70,00 per square mile that FITCOG says ShotSpotter would cost could be better used by investing in the community and social services.
“This isn’t going to work, and it’s a waste of money. What we should be doing is actually looking at the officers we have and looking at the systemic change that can happen within PPB, and perhaps working towards a more equitable solution, working towards a less racist solution. And you may actually get more cops,” she said.
In response to arguments that ShotSpotter might disproportionately impact communities of color, the group said the recommendation includes a list of 13 conditions centering on equity and inclusion, which the city must follow to implement the proposal.
They include requiring all officers who respond to ShotSpotter calls to receive ongoing implicit bias training, ensuring city leadership invites community input on the technology and helping PPB financially implement and sustain ShotSpotter without taking funds from any other public service groups.
“The other cost that we don’t talk about is the heartbreak and the loss of life,” said FITCOG Chair Ed Wiliams. “I would rather that we try something to change the trajectory that we’re on.”