Nov 4, 2022 - News

FOIA Friday: ShotSpotter forensic reports

Illustration of the acronym FOIA with an eye that's looking around and blinking standing in for the O.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Detroit's ShotSpotter contract allows police to obtain gunshot reports from the company with details that can be presented in court or used to obtain search warrants.

  • But police have not asked for any such records from the company since March, according to the city's response to Axios' public records request.

Why it matters: The fact DPD is not requesting these "detailed forensic reports" raises even more questions about how the technology is being used, especially after City Council recently expanded ShotSpotter despite effectiveness questions.

  • The reports contain "the exact, verified timing, sequence and location of each shot fired," according to the city's ShotSpotter contract.

Yes, but: The department has obtained another, less precise type of report from ShotSpotter — "investigative lead summaries." They help find shell casings, confirm witness accounts and identify suspects.

  • The reports provide "useful details about the approximate location, timing, and sequence of each shot fired during an incident," according to the contract.

What they're saying: DPD tells Axios that ShotSpotter is used as an investigative lead only.

  • "The ShotSpotter lead is not relied upon to provide concrete evidence of guilt," the department wrote in a statement.

What's next: We still want to know more. In response to our request, the city said six months' worth of investigative lead summaries cost $755.

  • Another Freedom of Information Act requester asked for the same records but has not paid for them, the law department says.
  • Email [email protected] if you requested those records and want to split the cost!

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more