BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts legislators on Tuesday asked federal authorities to investigate federal funding of a gunshot detection system used by many police departments amid concerns about possible civil rights violations. 

Sen. Ed Markey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ayanna Pressley made their request in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. They were joined by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Together, the legislators urged the Department of Homeland Security to investigate grant funding spent on the ShotSpotter system, “including whether ShotSpotter’s use may lead to violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

ShotSpotter uses microphones to detect and locate gunshot incidents. The system is set up in several communities across Massachusetts and beyond. 

“But despite ShotSpotter’s claims of a high aggregate accuracy rate, recent reporting shows high error rates and the over-deployment of sensors in predominantly Black and Latino communities,” Markey’s office said in a statement announcing the letter.

In the letter, legislators noted reported “false positive” ShotSpotter activations in Massachusetts communities including Cambridge and Boston. 

Beyond false positives, legislators said reported disproportionate sensor placement in certain neighborhoods poses additional problems.

“The result of this disproportionate deployment is unjustified surveillance and over-policing of these neighborhoods,” legislators said.

ShotSpotter is operated by the publicly-traded company, Sound Thinking.

South Thinking responded to the letter from lawmakers, saying in a statement “We believe this letter and its claims are without merit and we are confident that the DHS will see through this baseless attempt to disparage this critical public safety technology.”

(Copyright (c) 2024 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox