ShotSpotter, firm behind Chicago police gunshot-detection tool, changes its name

The rebrand comes months after the city extended the company’s contract for a second time. Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson has vowed to end the deal.

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A Chicago police official operates the ShotSpotter system at the Harrison District on the city’s West Side.

Frank Main/Sun-Times

ShotSpotter, the company behind the controversial gunshot-detection software used by the Chicago Police Department, announced on Monday a new corporate name as its future here remains uncertain.

The California-based firm will now be known as SoundThinking, though ShotSpotter “will retain its name as a product,” according to a company news release.

The rebrand comes less than a week after its stock value tumbled following the election of Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who has vowed to end the city’s contract with the company.

The Sun-Times reported Friday that Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration had quietly renewed the contract for a second time in October, keeping it in place until at least Feb. 16. A City Hall source said there have also been “extensive conversations” about soliciting bids for similar technology because the market has expanded since the city’s initial $33 million ShotSpotter contract began in 2018.

On Monday, mayoral spokesman Ryan Johnson confirmed the city exercised an extension option and is now “in the process of new gunshot-detection solicitation.” He said the latest deal was struck “to ensure there was no lapse in gunshot-detection technology.”

Johnson’s transition team hasn’t responded to questions about his plans, but as a candidate, he committed to end the ShotSpotter deal and insisted the technology is “unreliable and overly susceptible to human error,” adding it “played a pivotal role” in the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

SoundThinking CEO Ralph Clark extended an olive branch to the mayor-elect last week, saying the firm is “hopeful that we can demonstrate how ShotSpotter can best provide value to Chicago.”

A company spokesperson claimed the technology is 97% accurate and said the police department has credited the firm “with 125 lives saved in the last five years, the recovery of 2,985 firearms and 24,421 pieces of evidence.”

But in 2021, researchers found that nearly 86% of ShotSpotter deployments prompted no formal reports of crime. Then later that year, the city’s inspector general’s office issued a report warning the technology rarely leads to investigatory stops or evidence of gun crimes.

In announcing the company’s new name, SoundThinking also rolled out a set of tools that includes ShotSpotter, a law enforcement search engine, an investigation management system and software that helps direct both patrol and anti-violence resources.

“As the public safety landscape has evolved,” Clark said, “we have evolved with it.”

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