Deborah Witzburg Interview on ShotSpotter

Today’s show features our discussion with Deborah Witzburg who is the Deputy Public Safety Inspector General in the Office of the Inspector General for the City of Chicago. Witzburg recently published a report analyzing internal Chicago Police Department data and data from the Office of Emergency Management & Communications with one basic goal – to determine if there is demonstrable operational benefit to the CPD from their use of ShotSpotter.

ShotSpotter is an autistic gun shot identification technology that places speakers throughout a location that supposedly identify the sound of gun shots and get that information to police well before calls to 911 start coming in. Witzburg in her report was able to determine that the CPD can not prove with the data that is currently available that there is a demonstrable operational benefit to the CPD to use the technology. As Witzburg detailed in her report the CPD’s contract with ShotSpotter was supposed to end on August of 2021 buy for some reason the CPD decided to renew that contract for two additional years at a 5% increase in cost despite being unable to prove definitively that their was helping them reduce gun violence. When Superintendent Brown was pushed by activists and the media to provide a justification for the contract renewal Brown said they are getting to victims of gun violence much quicker. When asked to prove that he was unable to.

There have been only a couple of studies done to validate the effectiveness of ShotSpotter according to Witzburg and both of those evaluations failed to prove any real benefit in reducing the prevalence of gun violence. Also, recent media coverage by Vice News was able to document a handful of time officials at ShotSpotter manipulated the results of their technology to reverse the findings of their algorithms to say sounds were shootings that the algorithm said were not strictly for the benefit of the individual police departments.

We explore all of these topics with Deborah Witzburg on our show today.

Video of today’s show

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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This is our Chicago Justice Podcast that covers crime, violence, and justice issues in Chicago. We will feature deep dives in to justice system data, interview with researchers and justice system reform advocates, as well as evaluations of justice system practices.

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