Retired police captain continues work to protect schools with tech for teachers

May 25, 2022, 5:24 PM | Updated: 8:28 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A retired police officer who spent most of his career working to protect schools, is continuing that work with a Salt Lake-based company that created an app for school staff and first responders to communicate quickly during an active shooter situation.

Former Sandy Police Captain Justin Chapman was devastated to hear the news about the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 21 people, most of them children.

“Maybe it was because the numbers. Maybe it was because of the ages. Maybe it was because it was an elementary school, you know, my emotions popped up right away.”

Chapman retired from law enforcement in January this year after 28 years working for the Sandy Police Department.

“My interest in school safety is very high because really that’s what I’ve lived in a law enforcement aspect over the last 28 years.”

Chapman can’t help but think back to his second day as a school resource officer in 1998, just eight months before the Columbine School shooting, when he says, “we were able to stop an active shooting event at that school.”

“A student came with a loaded firearm on school grounds in a vehicle, prepared and ready to shoot other students at the end of the day.”

Chapman says a girl overheard the student say they had a gun. She decided to speak up and tell a hall monitor who notified Chapman and foiled the plot before it began.

“Credit goes to her for stopping a school shooting that was going to occur in the seventh period,” he said.

That moment was a “wake-up call” for Chapman, who began examining school shootings and prevented school shootings. His research led him to create a school training program called E.S.C.A.P.E. that taught students and staff the best actions to take to protect themselves during a shooting.

“Certainly the planning and prevention would be what all of us want. That it would never get to that point. But if it does come to that space we have teachers, we have students who are prepared to act. Because they understand and know what their options are,” he said.

But Chapman says, “we can do a lot better.”

After his retirement in January he joining the team at Aegix Global in Salt Lake City. The company sells “swift shields”, a foldable, lightweight bulletproof shield that can easily be stored and concealed in a classroom or office in case of an emergency.

But the company also offers technology that it says will fill the gap that exists when a shooting is underway at a place like a school.

“You have these students and staff who are really on their own for a moment of time, right? And what do you do then? What do you do?” Chapman said.

“And that’s really where that type of training comes in. And that’s where this app can help out.”

The phone app allows a school official to send out a customized alert to staff, letting them know of an active shooting or other emergency situation.

When the alert pops up on their phones, the app asks a few questions that allows teachers and other staff to notify others of where they are and whether they’re safe or need medical attention.

The app also includes a map of the campus where users can click on a building or room to see who is in there and whether they need help. All of this information would be available to responding officers and paramedics, alerting them of where the problem is and who needs help.

Chapman has learned in an active shooter situation, communication and timing can mean the difference between life and death.

“The quicker we can get in there, the more protection we can give them while they’re waiting for law enforcement. We anticipate that that will translate to lives saved and a better outcome overall,” he said.

“Saving time is saving lives. It truly is.”

Aegix says various law enforcement agencies and others are already using the technology. Cache County is also using it at its schools, police departments and cities.

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Retired police captain continues work to protect schools with tech for teachers