ShotSpotter, Facial Recognition Software, and Issues with Emerging Police Technology

On Behalf of | May 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Police departments across the United States have increasingly turned to new technology and software in assisting with criminal investigations. However, critics have sounded the alarm over their implementation, citing issues with the accuracy of these untested technologies, their cost to taxpayers, and how the technology is utilized in over policing urban areas, particularly as it relates to people of color.

Chicago Man Arrested Through ShotSpotter Technology

In August of 2021 Michael Williams, a 65-year-old resident of Chicago, was arrested and detained for over a year after being charged with shooting and killing a young man on a May night during a period of unrest following the death of George Floyd. The only evidence connecting the man to the shooting was a noiseless clip from a security camera showing a car driving through an intersection and a loud banging noise picked up by the ShotSpotter technology utilized by the city of Chicago that the company said came from within his vehicle. After his defense attorney subpoenaed correspondence between the company and the State’s Attorney’s Office, prosecutors dropped charges after he had been detained in Cook County Jail for 11 months.

ShotSpotter is a company that licenses their technology and proprietary algorithm to urban areas as a law enforcement tool. In general terms, the technology utilizes sensors placed around the city to detect and triangulate the location of purported gunshots before relaying that information to law enforcement. ShotSpotter technology evidence has been admitted in over 200 cases across the United States. However, there are critics of its accuracy. While ShotSpotter is marketed as being able to differentiate between gunshots and other loud noises, such as fireworks or car backfires, there have been instances where the system has mistaken other sounds for gunshots, as well as employees of the company altering the results of an alert, leading to false alerts, unnecessary police responses, and inserting possible human biases. Nevertheless, its contract was recently renewed by the city of Chicago.

Facial Recognition Technology Leads to Arrest Warrant of Individual Across the Country

When an Atlanta-area resident, Randal Quran Reid, was pulled over for a traffic violation, he was arrested and detained for nearly a week on an outstanding out-of-state warrant. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana, a state Mr. Reid had never been to, had issued a warrant for his arrest after a facial recognition technology purportedly made a “positive match” between Mr. Reid and an image of a thief captured by the security camera stealing designer purses from a store. Clearview AI, which utilizes facial images to identify suspects in police investigations, has a contract with the Sheriff’s office and was utilized by police to obtain their warrant from a judge. In a further twist, the Sheriff’s office has a contract with a company CloudGavel, which touts on its website that “law enforcement can now get an arrest warrant approved in minutes” by allowing officers to request digital signatures from judges which may have been used in Mr. Reid’s case.

Mr. Reid was arrested and given little information about what he was accused of after he was booked in a DeKalb County, Georgia jail to await extradition to Louisiana. Thankfully, Mr. Reid’s family had the resources to hire attorneys in Georgia and Louisiana to investigate the charges and evidence that led to the issuing of an arrest warrant. After gathering photos and videos of Mr. Reid to present to the Sheriff Department, they eventually withdrew the warrant after noticing a mole on Mr. Reid’s face that the alleged thief did not have in the security camera footage. Mr. Reid was released after spending nearly a week in jail due to the false identification, having spent thousands of dollars to clear his name on both attorney fees and towing fees after his vehicle was impounded due to his arrest.

Technology is far from perfect and the use of it can violate your constitutional rights. If law enforcement used modern technology in it’s investigation and/or prosecution of you, it is imperative to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and liberty and who has the skill to appropriately challenge its use.


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