Find an article depicting a specific example of technology misuse in the criminal justice field.

Find an article depicting a specific example of technology misuse in the criminal justice field.

The article that I found that depicts technology misuse in the criminal justice field is about how gunshot detection technology led to an innocent man being sent to jail for almost a year. Chicago prosecutors used gunshot detection audio as their main piece of evidence to charge a man with allegedly shooting another man. The incident occurred in 2020 in Chicago, IL, and the man wrongfully sent to jail was named Michael Williams, age 65. Prosecutors eventually requested that the judge release the man due to insufficient evidence. A lawsuit was filed in 2022 by the Macarthur Justice Center which seeks damages from the city for mental anguish, legal bills, and loss of income for Williams. Chicago police responded to gunshot technology audio and arrested Williams without any other evidence of a crime. The lawsuit claims that police knew the gunshot technology was unreliable but still did not pursue any other leads. Investigations have found that the technology used in Chicago, called ShotSpotter, often cannot distinguish gunshots directly underneath microphones and can misclassify fireworks and car exhausts as gunshots. (Burke & Tarm, 2022). The link to the article can be located here: Lawsuit: Chicago police misused ShotSpotter in murder case | AP News

Describe what could have motivated the misuse.

 The misuse of the technology could have been motivated by prosecutors looking to take who they believed was a murderer off the streets. The known violence in Chicago, especially involving firearms, also likely played a part in the arrest of Williams. The prosecutors did not have probable cause to arrest Williams and relied on what they believed was accurate information. If a department is confident in its technology, it is hard to blame them for attempting to use it as evidence in a prosecution. However, the investigation should have continued. Maybe the initial arrival of the police and detectives who witnessed the man who was shot and killed in his vehicle may have been traumatic for them. They may have been looking for the slightest evidence to make an arrest. Gunshot detection has always been somewhat inaccurate. Initial testing of the technology in Dallas, TX, did not identify or apprehend any suspects during the trial run. Many cities now utilize the technology without certain reliability. The ShotSpotter technology has been deployed in over 90 cities. (Moriarty, 2017. p 52).

Propose at least two strategies that could have been employed to prevent the misuse.

 One strategy that may have prevented the misuse would be to gather more evidence rather than rely solely on shot detection audio. Many sounds may be similar to gunshots, and those sounds may trigger an alert for law enforcement. Verifying the legitimacy of the notification is just as important as an officer who responds to a domestic dispute verifying information and facts before making an arrest. Police doing their due diligence may have prevented this innocent man from being arrested. Another strategy that could have prevented the misuse would have been to have the prosecutors attempt to match up the video recording with the time that the perceived gunshots were heard. Cameras are everywhere today, and there is a good chance that a nearby video recording, a useful technological tool available to law enforcement, could have assisted in the investigation. The accusation of murder may have been able to be verified on camera rather than relying solely on the audio from a supposed gunshot. The camera always tells the truth, but gunshot detection audio can be inaccurate. The way these technologies are implemented must be transparent and explained to the public. I believe that would also prevent misuse. Recent reporting suggests that ShotSpotter sends Chicago police to the wrong neighborhood 60 times per day. (Stanley, 2021). Considering this fact, police should be a little hesitant to make an arrest based only on audio of gunshots that may not even be gunshots.


Burke, G. & Tarm, M. (2022, July 21). Lawsuit: Chicago police misused ShotSpotter in murder case. AP News.

Moriarty, L.J. (2017). Criminal Justice Technology in the 21st Century. Charles C Thomas Publisher, LTD.

Stanley, J. (2021, August 24). Four Problems with the ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System. ACLU.

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