Man Sues City of Chicago, Claiming Its AI Wrongly Imprisoned Him

Officers are accused of putting “blind faith” in a notoriously unreliable platform.


Upon exoneration after nearly a year in jail, 65-year-old Chicago resident Michael Williams has filed a lawsuit against the city on grounds that a controversial AI program called ShotSpotter led to his essentially evidence-less arrest, Associated Press reports.

Filed by Williams in cooperation with human rights advocacy group The MacArthur Project, the federal suit alleges that officers put “blind faith” in the gunshot-locating tech, which not only led to an undue arrest, but ultimately stopped police from pursuing other leads as well.

If the suit is won, Chicago might have to cease all ShotSpotter activity. And given that the city quietly renewed its $33 million contract with the tech company last year, the case could be an inflection point in the rollout of AI-assisted policing if Williams is victorious.


ShotSpotter is quite controversial. A 2021 report by the MacArthur Project alleged that 89 percent of ShotSpotter alerts lacked any on-site evidence, while a Vice investigation the same year — which cited the horrific March 2021 death of unarmed black 13-year-old named Adam Toledo, who was shot by Chicago police responding to a ShotSpotter alert — accused the software of racial discrimination.

“In less than two years, there were more than 40,000 dead-end ShotSpotter deployments,” reads the MacArthur project report.

According to gadget, police didn’t even confirm a motive for Williams, who was accused of shooting 25-year-old Safarian Harring while giving the young man a ride home from a police brutality protest. All they had was a soundless security video of a car, along with a ShotSpotter alert.

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ShotSpotter has refuted claims of both inaccuracy and racial bias, insisting in a Friday statement that their AI system is “highly accurate with a 97 percent aggregate accuracy rate for real-time detections across all customers” and works by mapping “objective historical data on shootings and homicides.”

Regardless, the allegations are extremely serious: that in the same year, ShotSpotter alerts put an innocent man in prison and led to the death of an unarmed child. It’ll be fascinating to see the case play out.

READMORE: Lawsuit: Chicago police misused ShotSpotter in murder case [The Associate Press]

More on ShotSpotter: Gun Shot Detection Cameras Alerting Cops to Slamming Doors Instead

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