KSL TV

Utah first to test technology that logs every shot fired by police

By Mike Headrick, KSL TV | Posted - Apr. 9, 2021 at 8:49 a.m.


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OGDEN — If you've never heard of Utah SB68, you're not alone. It didn't get a lot of fanfare. It barely got media attention. But now signed by the governor, it may completely change the way officer-involved shootings are investigated.

In short, it helps pay for new technology that provides a digital diary of an officer's gun.

ShotDot

The tech is called ShotDot, developed by a company based in Australia. CEO Dominic Kelly says Utah police are first to test this new technology.

It's a tiny device inserted into the grip of a gun, which documents every shot from every officer.

By time stamping those shots, it leaves no question who shot, in what order they shot, and what time they shot.

ShotDot CEO Dominic Kelly talks to Mike Headrick.
ShotDot CEO Dominic Kelly talks to Mike Headrick. (Photo: KSL TV)

The Tech

The KSL Investigators caught up with former Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt at the shooting range. He believes this piece of technology will forever change the way officer-involved shootings are investigated.

"We didn't have the ability to go directly to the gun and ask it, 'How many rounds got fired.' Now we do," said Watt.

Here's how it works: Each time the trigger is pulled, the ShotDot has a unique identifier documenting data on every single bullet fired, down to the fraction of a second.

That information is immediately stored and transferred to a database linked to every officer's gun.

Compare that technology to how shootings are investigated right now, where shots fired are investigated by:

  • The number of shell casings, if they can find them.
  • The number of bullets left in the clip, if they know how many were originally in there.
  • Officer memory, trying to recall the number of shots fired in a highly intense situation.

"We never, ever knew for absolute certainty how many rounds an officer fired," said Watt. "With body cameras we have better recall, but not every shot gets captured. Not every gunshot gets captured."

State Street Shooting Case in point: April 8, 2019. Harold Vincent Robinson, 37, robbed two stores and fled from police through the streets of Salt Lake in a white pickup truck. While driving, Robinson randomly fired an estimated 50 shots from the window, endangering the public.

State Street pursuit
State Street pursuit (Photo: File photo)

Between 30 to 40 officers from different agencies were involved in the chase.

Robinson lost control of the truck on State Street and crashed into a business near 3300 South.

Within seconds, an investigation found officers fired nearly 200 bullets in 20 seconds of continuous gunfire.

Robinson was killed. The actions of all 15 officers who fired their weapons were ruled justified.

But the investigation is where things get tricky. With bullet casings scattered across every direction of State Street, it was a challenge to figure out exactly who fired, when they fired and in what order they fired.

Bullet casings from State Street investigation.
Bullet casings from State Street investigation. (Photo: KSL TV, File)

Kelly says tracking down the bullet casings alone, in the attempt to piece the shooting together, can take an enormous amount of time.

Even with the evidence left on scene, he says there is still guesswork.

"If there was a ShotDot device," said Kelly, "They could have easily determined who shot what and when."

Related:

Pitch and cost

And that sales pitch was enough for state lawmakers to pass SB68 during this year's legislative session. The bill earmarked $500,000 in state funds to pay for 50% of the cost for law enforcement agencies choosing to use this or similar technology.

In the end, the belief is the ShotDot will create more data when officers shoot, providing more accuracy during the investigation, and more transparency for everyone involved.

"That is critical information that we've never had before," said Watt.

Watt says other benefits are safety and cost. Like a car, guns have parts and mechanisms that get worn down and need to be replaced.

Because the ShotDot documents every shot fired, law enforcement agencies will have a better idea when to replace those parts.

ShotDot is expected to be in the hands of Utah officers by September.

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Mike Headrick

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