Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has decided to move forward with a controversial technology that claims to detect and pinpoint gunshots throughout the city.
The Focused Intervention Team’s Community Oversight Group, or FITCOG, recommended the city adopt ShotSpotter in a July report. That report called the technology “a focused deterrence tool as part of the overarching gun violence response strategy” in the city.
In Thursday evening’s FITCOG meeting, Stephanie Howard, Wheeler’s director of community safety, said the decision to advance a pilot program with the technology was made that afternoon after Wheeler met with Police Chief Chuck Lovell to discuss the idea.
“Chief Lovell recommended exploring implementing ShotSpotter on a pilot basis and the Mayor agrees with that recommendation,” Howard said. “We’ll be working with council offices and making outreach to the community to determine the details of what that pilot might look like.”
ShotSpotter claims it can identify and locate gunshots in real-time using a series of small microphones placed throughout a neighborhood. That information can then be fed to the police. The company claims its technology can differentiate gunfire from other loud noises like a car backfiring or fireworks.
The technology is controversial and a number of recent studies have called its reliability into question.
Vice News and Associated Press stories last year found ShotSpotter analysts modified alerts to help police in Chicago and New York mold evidence to better fit police narratives. In some cases, ShotSpotter audio was the sole piece of evidence used to arrest and incarcerate someone. ShotSpotter filed a lawsuit alleging the stories contained false and defamatory statements.
— Jonathan Levinson in Portland Green Lights Hidden Microphones to Combat Gun Violence