Why would police want a multi-million dollar gunshot detection system that doesn’t work? “ShotSpotter manufactures the urgency of an active threat, offering situations where there is likely no risk, but where police can operate within a narrative of extreme risk,” says Kelly Hayes. In this episode of Movement Memos, Kelly talks with Chicago organizers who are attempting to rid their city of an acoustic surveillance system that is both ineffective and dangerous.
Music by Son Monarcas and Viriya
Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.
Kelly Hayes: Welcome to Movement Memos, a Truthout podcast about things you should know if you want to change the world. I’m your host, writer and organizer, Kelly Hayes. We talk a lot on this show about building the relationships and analysis we need to create movements that can win. Today, we are talking about the surveillance state, and how a coalition of activists in Chicago is seeking to interrupt its work. The surveillance technology known as ShotSpotter sounds like something out of a modern dystopian novel: a sea of microphones, scattered across oppressed communities, supposedly to detect gunshots, for the purpose of community safety. But in reality, the technology rarely turns up actual gun-related crime, and instead leads to harassment, brutalization, false imprisonment, and death for targeted community members. Despite these harmful outcomes, police tout the need for the technology, which costs about $95,000 per square mile per year, and claim that it is integral to their work. The company itself argues that the use of its tech should be expanded, and that schools should also be blanketed with microphones, as a form of early detection for school shootings. So today, we are going to talk about Chicago’s Stop ShotSpotter campaign, and why some police departments are determined to keep a multi-million dollar surveillance system that is both ineffective and dangerous.