FITCOG formally recommends ‘ShotSpotter’ to Mayor Ted Wheeler

Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 9:51 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - After months of research, debate, and community engagement, the Focus Intervention Taskforce Community Oversight Group (FITCOG) formally recommended deploying “ShotSpotter” to Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday.

Edward Williams, chair of FITCOG, said the mayor received the recommendation this afternoon. Williams and the rest of the FITCOG members voted in favor of the recommendation at their weekly meeting on July 14.

“ShotSpotter” is a tool used by numerous law enforcement agencies in large cities to tackle gun violence. It works by picking up the distinct sound of gunshots and then immediately notifying the police. Williams said this technology could possibly show the true scope of gun violence in the city. According to the July 14 meeting, 84% of gunshots go unreported.

“When this technology is deployed, there’s this ‘aha’ moment. Like, ‘oh my God, there are more shots being fired than what we had ever really considered,’” Williams said.

However, there have been concerns about the technology from local leaders and community members. Some voiced their concerns that “ShotSpotter” will lead to over-policing in low-income and marginalized neighborhoods. Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty released a statement earlier this month, voicing her concerns about how crime data will be used to decide where in the city the technology will be placed. She was also concerned about the Portland police’s ability to respond to shooting calls while battling staffing issues.

Kimberely Dixon, vice chair of FITCOG, addressed those concerns.

“I think disproportionately we have significant violence that is happening to marginalized groups and in marginalized neighborhoods,” Dixon said. “So when we look at placement, I think that the data is going to drive where these sensors would be placed to detect gunfire. Again, this is a technology that is looking to detect gunfire. It is not looking for anything else.”

Dixon said FITCOG has listened to all sides of the debate and she said the recommendation to Mayor Wheeler has deep-rooted thought to it. In the end, everyone in the city wants the same thing. A safe, vibrant community free from the noise of gunfire.

“Is there going to be crime? Yes, there is,” Dixon said. “Will there still be loss of life? Yes. But what lessons are we able to learn along this journey together? Can we reduce the violence? I believe we can. I believe we can. And I believe that we have great people who want to. Even when I hear that there are differing opinions, it’s OK. I still believe that together we still want the same.”

To be clear, this is just a recommendation and no action has been taken to buy and deploy “ShotSpotter.” The mayor and the city council must approve of the technology before any action is taken.

FOX 12 did reach out to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office for comment, but has not yet heard back.