Earlier on Brandon Johnson: Chicago: Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire
Imagine a technology is created and implemented in a city to make life safer for all citizens who live in said municipality. The catch: It proves certain individual citizens from a distinct racial group commit virtually all the gun crime in the city (which official government statistics already prove as truth).
Progressives press Chicago mayor over pledge to end controversial policing tool, by Leigh Giangreco, The Guardian, July 16, 2023
Progressives have vowed to hold the new Chicago mayor, Brandon Johnson, to his campaign pledge that as part of crime-control efforts in the city he will break with the controversial gunshot detection contractor ShotSpotter.
Johnson gave the keynote speech this week at Netroots, the largest annual gathering of progressives in the country, taking place in Chicago, and amplified his campaign talk about a wider approach to safer streets.
“Many people will make you believe that the only way in which you can have safe communities is by simply engaging in politics of old, by believing that the only answer to public safety is policing. That’s a failed strategy,” he told the gathering.
However the progressive Democrat did not repeat his campaign trail commitments to pull the plug on ShotSpotter when the city’s current contract is up next year. For more than a decade, Chicago has used the company’s nearly 30-year-old gunshot detection system, deployed in high-crime areas and designed to direct police to shootings, but that in recent years has faced intense criticism for its methodology and the impact of its technology on communities of color.
“He’s a rising star in progressive politics and we’re going to hold him accountable,” Granate Kim, campaign director at MPower Change, a national Muslim digital advocacy organization, told a panel held at Netroots.
Kim added that if Johnson did not break with ShotSpotter: “We would be very upset and take him to task nationally.”
Johnson emerged as the unlikely winner from the left in the mayoral race in April, defeating former Chicago public schools CEO Paul Vallas, who had received an endorsement from the right-leaning police union. The two men had faced off after mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for re-election.
Johnson had said on his campaign website: “Chicago spends $9m a year on ShotSpotter despite clear evidence it is unreliable and overly susceptible to human error. This expensive technology played a pivotal role in the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.”
Toledo, 13, was shot dead by police in 2021 after a chase and confrontation in which bodycam footage showed the boy with his hands in the air. The killing prompted protests in Chicago, and no charges were brought against the police.
Amid criticism of the city’s procurement process as opaque, last fall, Lightfoot quietly extended the company’s contract to February 2024. Then in June, Johnson approved a $10m payment for ShotSpotter. A senior adviser in the mayor’s office blamed the authorization on an automated signature—but also did not commit to ending the contract next year.
If Johnson continues the contract, the backlash from fellow progressives is likely to be swift.
“We need Mayor Brandon Johnson to stand on his campaign promise of getting the contract canceled. It does not have to be that hard,” said Alyxandra Goodwin, a community organizer with Black Youth Project 100 in Chicago. Goodwin noted that the city’s upcoming budget season provided another opportunity to push the mayor and his allies to end the contract.
“We need the mayor to propose a budget that does not have money for gunshot detection. And now we need city council to approve the budget that doesn’t have money for gunshot detection,” Goodwin added.
Shotspotter has been deployed in more than 120 cities including Boston, New York and Denver, according to the company, which recently rebranded as SoundThinking. Research from the University of Michigan and Chicago’s own office of inspector general have raised questions over its accuracy and efficiency.
While the city mulls the renewal, it’s also facing a federal lawsuit from the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University’s law school over Chicago police’s use of ShotSpotter. Lucy Parsons Labs, one of the plaintiffs in the class action suit, alleged that the deployment of ShotSpotter in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods infringes on civil liberties and breaks the fourth amendment, said Alejandro Ruizesparza, co-director for Lucy Parsons Labs.
“We are using that racial justice lens in our litigation to look at how cities that have contracts with private entities use this technology in a way that is particularly harmful to people of color and also poor people,” Ruizesparza said. “Maybe these companies should be paying reparations every time they hurt Black and brown people. That would really hurt their profit margin.”
And this is why we can’t have nice things: Because in the process of maintaining nice things, patterns emerge demonstrating why we couldn’t have nice things.
And these patterns confirm racial realities known to our ancestors long ago, who instituted legal measures to ensure Western Civilization prevailed above the current year’s declaration “diversity is our greatest strength.”
Because “for our posterity” meant their actions in the past to ensure our future would outweigh black and brown people being mad ShotSpotter would prove non-whites committed all the gun crime in Chicago.