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CBS 2 Investigation: CPD Extends ShotSpotter Contract With No Public Notice

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A CBS 2 Investigation about the controversial use of ShotSpotter technology.

There are lots of the sensors around the city of Chicago to hear when gunfire erupts, to get police to the scene sooner.

In May, CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported on a new study, questioning the value of ShotSpotter because about nine out of 10 times, the noise did not lead to any evidence of an actual crime.

As of May, it appeared the $33 million ShotSpotter contract would be up for renewal right about now. There are some shocking findings, even by Chicago standards.

It came as a surprise to many, including community members who have rallied to be part of the discussion surrounding the extension of ShotSpotter contract.

Now CBS 2 is learning the contract was extended another two years, before that discussion could ever happen.

"We're surprised that the contract was signed with no public notice, no public comment, no input, just apparently behind closed doors."

Jonathan Manes of the MacArthur Justice Center led a team of researchers who analyzed OEMC ShotSpotter data and found that well over 85% of ShotSpotter-initiated police deployments in Chicago turn up no evidence of any reportable incident or crime—let alone gun crime.

If anyone was keeping tabs on when the contract expired, it was him. It's unclear when the update actually appeared on city's procurement website.

However, just this week, the city told CBS 2 that upon request of the Chicago Police Department, the contract was already extended, back in December 2020 for two years.

The current contract expiration date is August 19, 2023. That's news to CBS 2, to the study authors, community members and to the aldermen who recently questioned CPD about the future of the contract.

"People have been reaching out to the city, reaching out to city council members," Manes said. "I don't think anybody knew until a couple days ago that the city had already done this. It was a fait accompli that the contract had been extended."

CBS 2 asked CPD repeatedly about the timing of the renewal. Why the public wasn't made aware that the contract had already been extended when we asked about the controversy back in May?

A spokesperson did not answer CBS 2's questions and just kept pointing CBS 2 to the city's Office of Procurement. Also back in May, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she supported the technology but:

"Obviously with any contract, we have to make sure that we are continually evaluating it and getting the best bang for our buck," Lightfoot said back in May.

CBS 2 asked Lightfoot on Wednesday if she knew the contract had been extended without any sort of external discussion.

There was no straight answer to that question either, but Lightfoot said  she has ordered the Chicago Police Department to keep track of whether or not the technology is working.

"We have to get away from the days where we sign up for a contract and hope for the best but don't scrutinized that we're actually getting the benefit for our bargain," Lightfoot said.

That left more questions than answers about the city's future reliance on ShotSpotter. And why the ship appears to have sailed for public input.

"The city shouldn't be signing multimillion dollar surveillance contracts without any audit, without any public oversight, without any public input," Manes said.

CBS 2 has asked CPD and ShotSpotter for on-camera interviews on the subject. The requests were denied. CPD said the technology helps "reduce crime and make our neighborhoods safer." CBS 2 has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests with the city and police department in an effort to learn more about the contract extension.

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