On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council voted 34-14 in favor of a measure to overturn Mayor Brandon Johnson’s decision to end ShotSpotter. However, Johnson dismissed concerns that today’s vote undermined his decision and campaign pledge to end the controversial gunshot detection program when the contract expires later this year.

“First of all, this particular measure that was voted on today it did nothing, and this City Council and legislative body does not have executive authority,” Johnson said during a press conference following today’s meeting. 

“The executive branch has the authority to go into inter-governmental agreements, through my authority. What was voted on today, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he added.

He also reiterated throughout today’s press conference that the passage of the measure has no bearing on his authority as mayor.

The order is sponsored by Ald. David Moore (17th Ward). It was previously up for a vote on April 19 during last month’s City Council meeting, but Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) and Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd Ward) moved to delay that vote.

“It’s got to come before the City Council for a vote. If he’s adamantly against it, he can’t defund it without coming to the City Council,” Moore told reporters, referring to Johnson. “So he could still be adamantly against it. I don’t mind that. He has the right to be, but let that vote come before the City Council and not one individual.”

Alderman David Moore (17th ward) speaking with press after a press conference on May 22, 2024 following City Council meeting. Photo by Ash Lane for The TRiBE®

The order requires City Council members to vote before any violence prevention funding, like ShotSpotter, is removed from any ward.

Moore and some City Council members previously said they weren’t included in the decision-making process when Johnson chose to end the city’s contract with ShotSpotter in February. They also cited concerns from city residents in their wards who believe the gunshot detection technology “saves lives” and wish to keep it in their communities.

“We do understand folks who are advocating for ShotSpotter, especially Black folks, because all folks have been given is policing and police as like this so-called solution to public safety,” Sharah Hutson said. 

Hutson uses they/them pronouns and is an organizer with the #StopShotSpotter Campaign. “In a lot of our conversations, we’ve heard folks talking about, well, if you take away ShotSpotter, what else do we have?” they asked rhetorically.

During today’s meeting, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) attempted to push the measure back to the City Council’s Police and Fire Committee, further delaying a final vote, but his efforts failed.

The outcome of today’s vote highlights the ongoing divide among residents, some aldermen, the Chicago Police Department (CPD), and the Johnson administration regarding the mechanisms each group wants to implement to address community safety. 

Some people are in favor of more surveillance, while others are looking for alternatives to policing that include investments in mental health, housing, employment, healthcare, education, and more as pathways to address community safety.

While on the campaign trail, Johnson pledged to use a holistic approach to address community violence and end the city’s contract with ShotSpotter. In February, he moved to end the city’s contract with the gunshot detection technology.

There are studies that have called ShotSpotter’s validity into question. For example, a 2021 study by the MacArthur Justice Center showed that more than 90% of ShotSpotter alerts lead police to find no evidence to corroborate gunfire when police came onto the scene.

The order, as written, also calls for the CPD to collect data and share it publicly, showing ShotSpotter’s accuracy and the number of ShotSpotter alerts that have allowed officers to provide aid to gunshot victims and more.

“This is a conversation around what is actually keeping us safe and that is life-affirming investments,” Nat Palmer said. Palmer uses they/she pronouns. They are also a #Stop ShotSpotter Campaign and BYP 100 member

“We have to consider all of the other data that’s already been shown that isn’t self-funded by an institution with a vested interest in continuing its use and that is not backed by a multimillion-dollar company with a vested interest in continuing its use. The data they’re asking for is not good,” they explained.

Since 2018, the city has spent  $49 million spent on the program. ShotSpotter is used in other major cities nationwide, such as New York City, Chicago, Boston, Oakland, and Denver.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.