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Former Chicago Police superintendent joins alders in fight to save ShotSpotter

Alders, former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson rally to save ShotSpotter
Alders, former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson rally to save ShotSpotter 02:30

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One day before the long-awaited vote on a proposal to give the Chicago City Council more control over the city's controversial contract with ShotSpotter, members of the Save ShotSpotter Campaign gathered at City Hall to voice their support.

They were joined by a familiar face—former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who was leading the department when it first began using the gunshot detection technology in 2017.

Johnson was adamant that he is not being paid by the company behind ShotSpotter, SoundThinking, to promote it. He said he just thinks it works.

"It saves lives," said Ald. David Moore (17th).

Moore's ordinance, which is set for a City Council vote on Wednesday, would give City Council members the final say on the removal of ShotSpotter sensors in their wards.

"When it does save a life—and it does—and when it does result in an arrest - and it does - that is the value of this system," said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd).

On Tuesday, members of the "Save ShotSpotter Campaign," which includes at least a dozen alderpeople from across the city, called for more data collection and more transparency on the future of the contract.

Earlier this year, Mayor Brandon Johnson announced he will not renew the city's contract—after years of criticism that the tech is ineffective and leads to dangerous interactions between officers and residents.

The Mayor's office negotiated a contract extension through Sept. 22 of this year, followed by a two-month phasing-out period before it's shut down completely.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office has also said the system has "minimal return on investment" when it comes to holding shooters accountable.

Alders, other supporters rally to save ShotSpotter in Chicago 02:02

A recent CPD report sent to City Council members said officers respond more quickly to ShotSpotter alerts than 911 calls.

But according to an analysis by independent journalist People's Fabric, the data are riddled with errors—including over 12,000 events where police response times were zero or negative.

But on Tuesday, ShotSpotter supporters agreed that it's "not the only tool, and it's not a perfect tool," but they strongly believe that it has saved lives and will continue to do if the city lets it.

"If we take away ShotSpotter, which alerts our officers to pinpoint areas of gunshots, what's going to take its place?" Johnson said. "We can't afford to do that.

Former police Supt. Johnson responded Tuesday to the criticism that the department hasn't kept better data on the ShotSpotter's effectiveness.

"In hindsight, yes, I wish we had thought to gather that evidence in the beginning, but we just never thought we'd be running into a situation where we would be considering getting rid of it," said Johnson.

Johnson and other members of the Save ShotSpotter Campaign are calling for the CPD to start recording specific data on how many times police officers take a "police action" when ShotSpotter has alerted officers to a scene - and the number of people to whom officers render aid.

"That's the thing about data—it has to bring about things over time," Moore said.

As it stands right now, Mayor Johnson is still ending the $49 million contract this November. There were several calls for more data to be collected before then. 

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