Michael Williams gunshot detection wrongful arrest
Occurred: May 2020
Michael Williams, a 63 year-old retiree living in Chicago, was wongly arrested and jailed for nearly a year after Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers accused him of shooting a neighbour sitting next door to him in his car based on an 'unreliable' ShotSpotter gunshot detection alert.
At Williams' trial, prosecutors cited ShotSpotter sensors to bolster their case. But, according to a motion (pdf) filed by Williams' attorney, the company’s algorithms had initially classified the sound as a firework and the location co-ordinates had been altered. The admission persuaded the prosecutors to withdraw ShotSpotter evidence against Williams and the judge to dismiss the charges.
In July 2022, the MacArthur Justice Center filed a class-action lawsuit (pdf) on behalf of Williams and two other claimants for mental anguish, loss of income, and legal bills. The suit also sought a court order barring the technology’s use in Chicago.
Operator: Chicago Police Department
Sector: Govt - police
Purpose: Detect gunfire
Technology: Gunshot detection system; Deep learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Oversight/review
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing
SoundThinking (2022). VICE Media retracts allegations that ShotSpotter altered evidence
MacArthur Justice Center (2022). Williams v City of Chicago
Investigations, assessments, audits
AP (2023). Confidential document reveals key human role in gunshot tech
AP (2022). Lawsuit: Chicago police misused ShotSpotter in murder case
AP (2022). How AI-powered tech landed man in jail with scant evidence
AP (2021). Police Are Telling ShotSpotter to Alter Evidence From Gunshot-Detecting AI
Chicago Office of the Investigator General (2021). OIG finds that ShotSpotter alerts rarely lead to evidence of a gun-related crime and that presence of the technology changes police behavior
News, commentary, analysis
Published: May 2023