Johnson Inks Extension With ShotSpotter Until September, Hours Before Contract Expires

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Hours before Chicago’s contract with ShotSpotter expired at midnight Friday, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced he had reached an agreement that will allow the Chicago Police Department to continue using the controversial gunshot detection system until September.

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After the seven-month extension of the contract ends on Sept. 22, there will be a “two-month transition” period, according to separate statements released by the mayor’s office and ShotSpotter.

It is unclear how much Chicago will pay ShotSpotter for the use of its technology in the coming months, whether the contract extension would be presented to the Chicago City Council or what would take place in the transition period between September and December.

“In advance of the September termination date, the Chicago Police Department will work to revamp operations within the Strategic Decision Support Centers, implement new training and further develop response models to gun violence that ultimately reduce shootings and increase accountability,” according to the mayor’s office.

A statement from SoundThinking, the company behind ShotSpotter, called the technology a “critical” law enforcement tool.

“SoundThinking will also continue to collaborate with the Chicago Police Department to develop the best possible metrics and analytics to drive transparency and optimize reporting,” according to a SoundThinking statement.

Johnson announced Tuesday the city would stop using the ShotSpotter technology by Sept. 22 — one month after the Democratic National Convention takes place in Chicago and after the summer months that are often the most violent period of the year.

That would give the Chicago Police Department enough “runway” to wind down its use of the technology and revamp CPD’s Strategic Decision Support Centers, Johnson told reporters Thursday during a combative news conference.

However, Johnson announced he would not renew ShotSpotter’s contract without a finalized agreement with SoundThinking to allow the city to continue using it until September.  

A spokesperson for the Oakland-based firm said in a statement late Thursday the firm asked the city for a 12-month extension as recently as December. However, city officials proposed extending the deal that has cost taxpayers $49 million since 2018 for only nine months, according to the firm’s statement.

Johnson’s announcement that he would not renew the contract came “without consultation” with SoundThinking, which saw its share price drop nearly 18.4%, to close at $17.56 per share, on Tuesday. The firm has lost more than half its value as measured by the stock market since March, just before Johnson’s election.

“We believe the shared goal of an extension period must provide the best possible data and analysis to the residents of the City of Chicago through greater transparency and reporting standards,” a statement from the company said. “The way this is secured is through a minimum 12-month extension and modifications to the city’s current data and reporting protocols.”

Johnson told reporters that while he believed an extension of seven months was reasonable to allow CPD to transition away from ShotSpotter, he was not willing to entertain a longer extension.

Inspector General Deborah Witzburg released an audit that found that fewer than one in 10 ShotSpotter alerts resulted in evidence of a gun-related criminal offense being found.

Earlier this month, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx released a report that found the system rarely led to prosecutions for gun crimes.

Company officials have long defended the system as an important part of a multipronged approach to law enforcement and touted its ability to speed help to those wounded by gunfire.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago. 

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