Quiet ShotSpotter contract renewal has organizers questioning and rallying against CPD

By Valentina Pucarelli, Photojournalist

Organizers gather at the 6300 block of South Loomis to protest and demand that the Chicago Police Department end their contract with ShotSpotter. K’Von Jackson

Community members and organizers campaigning against the audio surveillance system, ShotSpotter, gathered in Englewood for a rally and teach-in demanding the discontinuation of the ShotSpotter contract with the City of Chicago.

The rally and teach-in at the Chicago Police Department’s 7th District headquarters, 1438 W. 63rd St., occurred Aug. 19, the day the $33 million contract was set to expire. Community organizers learned only weeks before the rally and teach-in that the contract had already been extended in December 2020, according to CBS Chicago.

“We were under the impression that the contract was supposed to expire [Aug. 19],” said Alyx Goodwin, a community organizer with Defund CPD, ”However, back in December, CPD had already extended the contract for another two years.”

Organizers are also asking for the ShotSpotter budget to be reinvested into the Peace Book and the Community Restoration Ordinance and to stop closed door negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police.

“It seems like things just happen to pass, millions of dollars of money [are] just thrown into policing without any say or input from the community,” said Tynetta Hill-Muhammed, a community organizer with Defund CPD and BYP100.

Attendees at the rally hand out pamphlets about ShotSpotter and point out where the ShotSpotter systems are located. K’Von Jackson

Goodwin said Chicago’s South and West Side residents are looking for housing, jobs, trauma-informed health care and quality education.

“CPD continues to bloat the police department budget and spend our tax dollars the way they see fit,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said organizers had been vocal to the press and city council for at least two months before Aug. 19, and no one knew anything about the renewal until she got an email from independent journalist and City Cast podcast producer Natalie Rivera.

The email led Goodwin to the City of Chicago’s website where the original ShotSpotter contract with CPD is published, showing a modification with a new end date of Aug. 19, 2023, awarded in December 2020.

According to Goodwin, no one knows when the modification was published.

“It just doesn’t make sense for a contract that is worth over $30 million to be extended without any input from the community,” Hill-Muhammed said.

Tynetta Hill-Muhammed speaks at the Stop ShotSpotter rally and teach-in in Englewood on Aug. 19. Valentina Pucarelli

On Aug. 4, the Chronicle asked CPD spokesperson Thomas J. Ahern about the renewal of the contract that was set to expire Aug. 19, 2021. He said he did not know the status of it.

The Chronicle contacted Ahern again on Aug. 20 after learning of the contract extension. Ahern provided no additional information and directed a Chronicle reporter to the city’s Department of Procurement Services.

After speeches from community organizers last week, the rally attendees were set to separate into groups for a teach-in activity and find potential ShotSpotters in the area.

The activity was disrupted by two Englewood residents questioning the intent of the event and the community members present.

Approximately 50 people gather in front of Chicago Police Department’s 7th District headquarters, 1438 W. 63rd St., to rally against the use of ShotSpotter technology in Chicago. Valentina Pucarelli

“The people in Englewood are in pain, just as Black people all over the South and West Side are in pain,” Hill-Muhammed said. “People are losing family members, they are losing friends, they are losing comrades all the time.”

Hill-Muhammed said there was a combination of frustrations that led to the questioning of their intentions and they invited the two residents who were critical of the protesters to rethink their accusations by joining their spaces and learning more about their work.

The situation was respectfully scaled down and the event ended early.

Goodwin said moving forward with the campaign depends on the city’s position on continuing the contract.

“We’re going to push back against any budget that appropriates money to continue the ShotSpotter contract,” Goodwin said.