, August 09, 2022

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Vallejo board to discuss adding gunshot detection devices to city surveillance network

  •   3 min reads
Vallejo board to discuss adding gunshot detection devices to city surveillance network
A Flock gunshot detection device. Photo: Flock.

VALLEJO – Vallejo’s surveillance advisory board is once again slated to discuss the possible deployment of 80 to 100 gunshot detection devices throughout the city during a special Wednesday meeting.

The newly created board was asked to sign-off on an arrangement with the Atlanta-based company Flock Safety to beta test the devices, similar to those commonly referred to as ShotSpotter. The board, however, directed city staff to return with a draft policy on how the devices would be used. The city originally intended to provide a copy of the draft policy with the special June 9 board meeting, but staff withheld it at the last minute, stating the policy wasn't ready for public review.

Flock is offering the city use of the devices for free during the next year. They would be paired to automated license plate readers (ALPR) already placed throughout the city in a combined effort to identify the shooter. The ALPRs are also provided by Flock.

Under the proposed policy, gunshot detections would be dispatched as Priority 1 calls with the information being relayed to the department’s communication center and officers’ mobile data computers and smartphones.

The policy also states that the detection equipment, when coupled with other police technology, can be effective.

“It should be noted that the technology will likely never be 100% accurate,” according to the police. “However, if coupled with human verification, witness information and reports of shots fired, information of associated vehicles of a related shooting, license plate readers, or closed circuit television surveillance, then this technology has the real ability to effectively augment public safety.”

Chief Shawny Williams told the board last month that there were over 250 shootings in 2021 and he further argued that the devices could help officers get to potential gunshot victims quicker.

“The time is of the essence because we are going into the summer months and historically our shootings do rise in the summer,” Williams told the board last month. “We have a lot of gun violence. Unfortunately, it's disproportionately impacting communities of color.”

One of the department’s deputy police chiefs will serve as program manager, provide oversight of the devices by reviewing monthly and yearly analysis, be the department’s point of contact for the vendor, and ensure all new field employees, power users, and communications personnel have received training, according to the policy.

The devices have the ability to detect glass breaking, street racing and car collisions, but only gunshot detection would be beta tested at first, a Flock Safety representative told the board last month.

People — including groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and media outlets like the Associated Press — have raised questions about the effectiveness of similar gunshot detection devices and if they stop or prevent gun violence.

If the board approves the gunshot detection devices, the Vallejo City Council will have the final authority to accept them.  

The seven-member board will also take a vote on determining future agenda items, including inviting a Vallejo police representative to provide an update on new technology and policies; receive a list of current deployed technologies, the associated costs, and length of deployments; review a drone policy; and discuss emergency deployment of technology, among others.

The Surveillance Advisory Board  meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., Wednesday inside the Vallejo City Hall Council Chambers, 555 Santa Clara St.

Members of the public will be able to participate in-person or remotely via Zoom.

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