David Chipman (ATF) Sells Insider Access for Poor Results

Monday, June 21, 2021 // Research

Sells Swamp Access for Company Linked to Anemic Outcomes

Chipman used his ATF credentials as a government insider to launch himself into the for-profit space. As a “gun for hire”, he joined ShotSpotter as the Vice President of North American Sales from 2013-2016. During this time, he was responsible for expanding sales in cities across the United States and obtaining contracts with the Federal Government. Chipman’s job was simply to use his connections with law enforcement to peddle a reportedly lackluster technology that wastes millions of dollars across the country.

According to its website, ShotSpotter is a company that designs gunshot detection technology to alert and inform police to gunfire in their community. The company is “spotty” with delivering on its promises according to many reports and court filings. Marketing its products to politicians and those close to power seem to be ShotSpotter’s only successful business strategy.

In 2016, Forbes wrote a thorough critique of the company, revealing ShotSpotter’s business strategy revolving around Chipman’s government access rather than a strong deliverable:

“Despite its presence in nearly every major metropolitan area of the country, there remains little external validation of ShotSpotter from researchers or government agencies, which often guide decisions made by local law enforcement…Clark [CEO] convinced Chipman to run ShotSpotter’s North America sales team in the summer of 2013. Bringing in someone with no sales experience who spent most of his career in law enforcement was a risky move. But it quickly paid off. In the two years that followed, bookings spiked under Chipman, as ShotSpotter inked contracts with new cities across the country. All the while, Chipman worked on his federal government contacts. He knew it would be an uphill battle…Ultimately, Chipman’s conversations with the ATF and other agencies failed to produce an agreement…Chipman quit his job at ShotSpotter in February [2016]…Without Chipman, Clark lost his best line of access to federal agencies, multiple people close to the CEO said.”

Chipman signed on to ShotSpotter a company with a flimsy record of results because they paid him well for his government connections. Here are just a few of the reported examples of ShotSpotter’s enervated technologies before, during, and after Chipman’s tenure:

  • 2010-2013, False Alarms in Newark NJ:A 2013 investigation of the effectiveness of ShotSpotter in Newark, New Jersey revealed that from 2010 to 2013, the system’s sensors alerted police 3,632 times, but only led to 17 actual arrests. According to the investigation, 75% of the gunshot alerts were false alarms.”
  • 2013, Trenton Cancels ShotSpotter: “Trenton no longer uses ShotSpotter, but when the city did, Muschal said multiple police units would be deployed when the sensors went off. ‘And when you get there, it’s [nothing] more than a truck back firing…’”
  • 2013, Miami-Dade Police Department Abandons ShotSpotter: “’There were instances in which the ShotSpotter did not identify gunfire when it should have,’ according to a statement. Just as bad, ShotSpotter frequently had officers searching for phantom shooters.”
  • 2014, California Superior Court Judge John Kennedy: ”So my ruling is that the expert testimony that a gun was fired at particular location at a given time, based on the ShotSpotter technology, is not presently admissible in court, because it has not, at this point, reached general acceptance in the relevant scientific community.”
  • 2017, ShotSpotter Forensic Analyst Admits Bogus Metrics: “’Our guarantee [80% accuracy of the system] was put together by our sales and marketing department, not our engineers,’ Greene said. ‘We need to give them [customers] a number,’ Greene continued. ‘We have to tell them something. … It’s not perfect. The dot on the map is simply a starting point.’”
  • 2017, San Antonio Police Cut ShotSpotter From Budget: “The reason: it simply wasn’t worth the cost, city officials say. In the 15 months it’s been in operation, officers have made only four arrests and confiscated seven weapons that can be attributed to ShotSpotter technology, Police Chief William McManus said. The technology itself cost about $378,000. But the city spent another $168,000 on officer overtime for the program, the chief said.”
  • 2018, Fall River Mass. Police Department: “We are not interested in paying $120,000 a year, which is police officers, which is cameras, which is vehicles, for something that works less than 50 percent of the time,” Correia said.
  • 2018, Rochester New York: “County Court Judge Christopher Ciaccio decided that a key piece of the prosecution’s case — the city’s crime-fighting tool known as ShotSpotter — was not reliable enough. While the tool, which attempts to alert police to gunshots, may be viable in cases with other corroborating evidence of a crime, it became the linchpin of the case against Silvon Simmons, Ciaccio ruled.”
  • 2018, ShotSpotter Hides Metrics: “The NBC 6 Investigators tried to obtain the raw data from the Miami Police Department to conduct an independent analysis, but the company opposed its release saying it is proprietary information under its $2.5 million contract with the city. It is not the first time. In a 2015 nationwide memo, obtained by Forbes, the company asked customers to respond to requests for records ‘in a way that would not harm ShotSpotter business.’”
  • 2021, Oakland CA Reconsiders ShotSpotter: “’The annual report says you’ve got to justify this continued use,’ said Hofer. ‘To me that’s the real issue, is, does this technology work? We’re going to have to start saying no at some point to this technology that’s just not worth the money.’”
  • 2021, Gunshot Detection Systems Don’t Work: “Remarkably, there are no independent, peer-reviewed studies of ShotSpotter efficacy. There are, however, two prominent studies that conclude gunshot detection systems increase demands for police resources but do not result in reductions in violent crimes or increases in the number of confirmed shootings.”
  • 2021, MacArthur Justice Center Report After 13-Year Old Shot in Chicago: “Their findings have not yet been released, but a preliminary report shared with The Hill suggested that more than 85 percent of ShotSpotter-initiated deployments do not lead to evidence of reportable incidents or crimes…Predictive policing systems like ShotSpotter are already coming under more scrutiny amid national outrage over police violence.”

It is pretty typical for a company to pay an insider like Chipman for access to their relationships that will grease the wheels for government contracts, especially if their product is faulty and competitively underwhelming. Chipman’s three-year stint with ShotSpotter is an example of how Chipman sold his “expertise” to the highest bidder, regardless of the product being peddled.

Whether ShotSpotter is a scam or a sad lesson in business marketing is less important. What is important is who David Chipman will sell out to next if selected to be the head of ATF. We would hope nobody, but his track record with ShotSpotter and other former employers seems to indicate he enjoys using his swamp credentials to make a quick buck.