Seattle City Council shoots down $1.5M police surveillance technology reduction
(The Center Square) – An amendment to transfer $1.5 million dedicated to police surveillance technology to fund services for tiny house villages in Seattle has been rejected by a majority of the Seattle City Council.
ShotSpotter is a technology program that differentiates the sounds of gunshots from other loud sounds like fireworks or the backfiring of a vehicle so that police can respond to the scene quickly. Four city council members were in favor of transferring the $1.5 million dedicated to the technology’s implementation due to a number of studies that claim it’s ineffective and targets communities of color.
“This technology simply doesn’t work – the research shows that it hurts police response times by repeatedly sending officers to mistaken alerts, pulling them away from doing work elsewhere,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold said in a statement prior to Tuesday's vote. “We absolutely need to do more to address gun violence, but this is just throwing money away.”
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s 2024 mid-biennium budget adjustments include reinvesting $1.8 million of salary savings within the Seattle Police Department into a new crime prevention pilot to implement automatic license plate readers, CCTV cameras, and ShotSpotter in order to “deter criminal behavior and hold offenders accountable.” The technology will require an assessment to comply with the city’s surveillance ordinance.
Jamie Housen, the mayor's director of communications, said Harrell believes the city needs to advance every possible option to stem the impacts of gun violence.
“We will continue to advance a holistic approach to addressing gun violence, including law enforcement, community-based programs and violence interrupters, upstream solutions, and legislative advocacy in Olympia,” Housen told The Center Square in a statement. “We appreciate the city council including this suite of technologies in the budget, giving the city additional tools to inform police response, gather evidence, and address gun violence.”
Other major cities in the U.S. have recently dropped the ShotSpotter program including New Orleans, La.; Dayton, Ohio; Charlotte, N.C.; and Trenton, N.J.
During the course of his campaign earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson promised to get rid of ShotSpotter. The city’s contract with the company is up in February. This comes after a study by the city's Inspector General found that around 90% of ShotSpotter alerts in the city were false positives, resulting in police being dispatched 40,000 times when no gun-related violence had taken place.
The proposed amendment was shot down by a 4-5 vote by the city council on Tuesday.
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