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ShotSpotter, Chicago Police Defend Gunshot Detection Technology As Chicago Residents Sound Off At City Council Committee Hearing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Critics and supporters finally had the chance to sound off Friday on Chicago's controversial gunshot detection system, which the CBS 2 Investigators have been digging into for months.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey listened to the City Council hearing Friday, and representatives from ShotSpotter and Chicago Police both came out to defend the contract.

The hearing was supposed to be a wide review of the Chicago Police Department's use of technology. But it ended up being hours of discussion - mostly on the widely-criticized ShotSpotter technology. And this time, company was there to respond.

Residents from wards across Chicago called into a virtual hearing with the City Council Committee on Public Safety on Friday.

"ShotSpotter is not a public safety solution! ShotSpotter is not public safety solution!" one resident said.

"Everything I've learned about the ShotSpotter contract has us disturbed," another said.

"We've been demanding oversight of CPD's use of ShotSpotter for months now," another said.

The resident expressed their concerns with the gunshot detection system —and the city's multimillion-dollar contract that was quietly extended back in December of last year without any public input.

"I'm not here to get into the weeds on the company," said Chicago Police Deputy Chief Larry Snelling.

Chicago Police defended the system of acoustic sensors, saying they often bring officers to the scene of a shooting faster than waiting for a 911 call, potentially saving lives.

"We can say that 85, 90 percent of the time, the shot detection system doesn't render any information," Snelling said. "What we need to look at is the 10 percent of the time that it does."

ShotSpotter President Chief Executive Officer Ralph Clark said there's no "secret sauce" about how the tech works.

"ShotSpotter's been a proven technology that and does make an impact," Clark said.

Many aldermen prodded the company and the CPD about the fact that its system hasn't been peer-reviewed or independently evaluated.

ShotSpotter said it has been independently audited at 97 percent accuracy based on feedback from their customers.

"To say that it's 97 percent accurate, and it's not based on anything other than sort of negative feedback, is kind of like saying customer satisfaction with my office is very, very high - based on people not complaining," said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd).

"To see that $9 million was just resigned like that without even having a conversation - there's a big problem with that," said Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th).

This was a subject matter hearing — meaning no vote was taken.

For months, we have been asking ShotSpotter for an on-camera interview to respond to the growing number of critics of their technology. For months. we've been denied.

The city also responded to critics asking, why this contract was extended without public input?

The City's Office of Public Safety Administration said ShotSpotter delivered on all of the administrative benchmarks they were supposed to hit. None of those points include whether or not the technology really reduces gun violence in Chicago.

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