Two finalists soon to be chosen, town hall to follow, city officials said

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Community members upset about the possibility of a controversial gunshot detection program coming to Portland held their own town hall Tuesday night to give voice to residents opposed to the idea.

The technology that could soon come to the city — from companies such as ShotSpotter, Eagl, Twenty20/Acoem, and Flock — continues to draw criticism as local civil rights organizations speak out against surveillance using its experimental technology on Black and brown neighborhoods.

“A lot of the data that we’ve seen is either marketing materials from them or it’s data that’s actually paid for funding a lot of these university studies,” said Aje Amaechi, a digital organizer with Freedom to Thrive.

KOIN Previous Coverage: Gunshot detection programs

The forum, Stop Surveillance, focused not only on concerns around the proposed programs and larger systemic concerns around racism and bias, but also where the community could instead find other solutions.

“We’re seeing defunding of lights in parks and we’re seeing expansions of highways and all of these things that really make us less safe and at the same time we’re being told the only thing we can really afford is this million-dollar gunshot detection technology,” said Amaechi.

“There’s a lot of data of what actually works in terms of violence. For example, reducing adverse childhood experiences, creating green spaces, slowing down traffic — there’s a lot of data around what actually works.”

Last summer as the conversations around the technology coming to Portland first began, members of the city’s Focused Intervention Team Community Oversight Group spoke in support of it.

“This technology will be present to aid and assist officers to have a more succinct and specific response to gunfire heard,” said Kimberely Dixon, the vice-chair of FITCOG.

Opponents maintain there’s not enough known about the tech to rely on it as a solution to the city’s gun violence.

City representatives told KOIN 6 News they will host a town hall with representatives of both companies that are picked as finalists. A decision on finalists is expected soon, though a date for that town hall has not been set.

City officials were also invited to attend this community forum. Organizers told KOIN 6 News representatives from State Sen. Dembrow’s office and reps for some county commissioners attended, no local officials personally attended.

KOIN 6 News reached out to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office for comment but have not yet heard back.

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