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Group: Portland, Ore., Should Assume ShotSpotter Controls

Portland leaders should approve more than a dozen conditions before the city starts using ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology to address privacy, surveillance and other concerns, a community oversight group says.

(TNS) — Portland leaders should approve more than a dozen conditions before the city starts using ShotSpotter gunfire detection technology to address privacy, surveillance and other concerns, a community oversight group recommended Monday.

The suggestions from the Community Oversight Group for the Police Bureau’s Focused Intervention Team:

1. Develop a “Violent Impact Players’ to help officers identify and arrest “serial trigger pullers” to reduce shootings. It should be developed by the Police Bureau, along with city officials and residents.

2. Provide ongoing implicit bias training for all of the officers on the Police Bureau’s Focused Intervention Team, the specialized gun violence squad, and other patrol officers who would respond directly to ShotSpotter sensor alerts about real-time gunfire.

3. Conduct ongoing evaluation of any unintended consequences resulting from the use of the ShotSpotter technology.

4. Draft protections from potential legal or civil rights violations that may arise from the use of the technology, including but not limited to either the direct or indirect capturing and collecting of information beyond the sound of gunfire.

5. Conduct comprehensive data collection and analysis of ShotSpotter technology, public safety research and performance analyses, and share all findings with the public.

6. Invite further community input on the technology as the city considers this recommendation.

7. Have city leaders approve funding to help police cover the expense of adopting and sustaining the technology during the contract period. Make sure the funding isn’t taken from any other public service.

8. Establish a reasonable pilot project timeline to test the ShotSpotter in Portland, with the data analysis and outcomes available for review.

9. Secure a right to terminate any ShotSpotter agreement consistent with contract laws.

10. Ensure sensors are placed equitably through an “evidenced based approach,” reflective of current gun violence shooting statistics in the Portland metro area.

11. Strengthen the Police Bureau’s collaboration with other emergency responders, such as medical and crisis responders, who may be called out to shootings.

12. Have the Police Bureau provide a " high level of public transparency” regarding ShotSpotter sensor data and gun violence trends in Portland.

13. Work with prosecutors to develop investigative guidelines and limitations on the use and integration of ShotSpotter data in the criminal prosecution and conviction of gun violence cases.

The Community Oversight Group also invited three outside criminal justice experts to review its report on ShotSpotter technology.

They were Reygan Cunningham, senior partner of the consulting firm California Partnership for Safe Communities; David M. Kennedy, professor and criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City; and Walter Katz, vice president of criminal justice at the consulting firm Arnold Ventures who worked 17 years as a public defender in Southern California.

By the release of its report Monday, the group had received the reviews of Cunningham and Kennedy but not Katz.

Kennedy’s comments:

– He called the community group’s recommendations “very strong and on point.”

– He wrote that he supported the federal Project Safe Neighborhood approach of identifying the people and groups that are responsible for the majority of the shootings, as well as those at high risk of falling victim to shootings, and combining that approach with the ShotSpotter technology to combat the violence. ShotSpotter should be considered “an adjunct” to these other steps, he said.

– He recommended that the use of a Violent Impact Player list not be used only for enforcement but also for violence intervention by outreach workers: “Information about gun violence gathered and analyzed by law enforcement – through front-line reviews, criminal history analysis, FIT operations, ShotSpotter, or any other means – should be shared with non-law enforcement actors in legal, structured, and accountable ways to enhance the safety and well-being of those at high risk and to minimize the need for either deterrence or enforcement as much as possible,” he wrote.

Recognizing that gun violence is concentrated among a very small high-risk population, identifying these groups driving the shootings and those at high risk of becoming victims, is key, he wrote.

— He recommended that work by the Focused Intervention Team officers be linked to “non-enforcement resources and interventions” such as outreach workers who often strive to support tfamilies affected by gun violence. The community group agreed and urged city leaders to encourage and help cultivate greater communication and positive working relationships between police and outreach or social justice workers.

Cunningham’s comments:

— She said she was glad to see Portland moving in this direction, however, she cautioned that the city should try to manage public expectations, noting that the technology only works when appropriate resources are dedicated to it.

- There needs to be a sufficient number of officers to respond to the gunfire.

— The technology allows, if nothing else, forensic evidence to be collected and analyzed to help with solving a shooting, she wrote — evidence technicians can collect data in a timely manner and analyze recovered spent bullet casings.

— It would be hard to use ShotSpotter technology to address potential school shootings, she noted. If a sensor is placed near a school, it could pick up the gunfire sounds and alert police quickly, but “the challenge is knowing which schools are at higher risk of being victimized,” compared to others, she wrote. Unless there’s an unlimited amount of money to put sensors near every school, it’s unlikely to address potential school shootings.

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