March 29, 2024

IMPD will forgo ShotSpotter, spend $1 million on Tasers instead

A ShotSpotter sensor mounted to a chimney Thursday, March 21, 2024, on the east side of Indianapolis. - Jenna Watson / Mirror Indy

A ShotSpotter sensor mounted to a chimney Thursday, March 21, 2024, on the east side of Indianapolis.

Jenna Watson / Mirror Indy
By Emily Hopkins

After more than two years of will-they-won’t-they, Indianapolis officials announced this week that they will not move forward with gunshot detection technology.

“We think that there’s much more worthy investments at this point for our city,” Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Chris Bailey said Thursday, March 28, during a news conference.

The city had tested the sensors in 2022 on the east side, despite one senior police official’s concern that the technology was “not fiscally responsible.”

After the pilot, an IMPD working group in March 2023 recommended the city sign a contract with SoundThinking, which sells ShotSpotter sensors. That recommendation was not made public until this month, when Mirror Indy obtained a copy of the working group’s report.

Mirror Indy also found that several ShotSpotter devices remained in place on the east side, more than a year after the pilot’s conclusion. A SoundThinking spokesperson previously declined to answer Mirror Indy’s questions about the sensors.

At the briefing Thursday, Bailey said he “had no idea that they still were up” and he asked SoundThinking about the sensors.

“They left them there in case that was the vendor we went with, so they wouldn’t have to go through that process again,” Bailey said. “They were not collecting data.”

The city initially allotted more than $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the gunshot detection technology.

On Thursday, Bailey said the city determined it would only have been able to deploy sensors in a small area. He said the money will instead be spent on Tasers.

Money to be spent on Tasers

Exact figures for how many Tasers would be provided to police were not immediately available. Bailey said the new Tasers would replace aging devices that have become less reliable, meaning they don’t always deliver an electric current to their target.

The new Tasers have a range of 45 feet and can deploy up to 10 individually targeted probes without the need to reload, according to the website for Axon, the company that makes Tasers.

Bailey said he had been in touch with community members who were supportive of the department’s decision.

“They know this technology is coming, and they support us looking for ways to reduce officer-involved shootings and deadly encounters with the police,” Bailey said.

Since the beginning of 2023, 12 people have died after being shot by police, according to IMPD data.

Clif Marsiglio, who lives on the near east side and has previously expressed skepticism about gunshot detection technology, said he was relieved that the department had chosen not to pay for the sensors.

But he was disappointed to learn the funds would be redirected toward Tasers. Marsiglio said he had hoped the funds would be used to address mental health, substance use and homelessness.

“I say this knowing officers have a hard job to do,” he said. “There’s no mental health crisis that’s eliminated by someone showing up with a gun or a Taser.”

Bailey said the department would lease the Tasers from the company, which would provide maintenance and upkeep over the course of a 10-year agreement. The $1 million in federal funding will pay for the first year. After that, the Tasers will be included as part of IMPD’s budget request to the City-County Council.

City-County Councilor Crista Carlino, co-chair of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, shared her approval in a statement to Mirror Indy.

“I appreciate IMPD’s due diligence in being intentional with their investments in other technology and equipment that will better serve our officers in their day-to-day job,” she said.

Mirror Indy reporter Emily Hopkins uses data to write stories about people. Contact them at 317-790-5268 or emily.hopkins@mirrorindy.org. Follow them on most social media @indyemapolis.

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