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Utah school shooting training called into question over speaker’s background

Aug 10, 2023, 6:44 PM | Updated: 6:46 pm

A scan of the flyer sent out advertising the event in Cedar City....

A scan of the flyer sent out advertising the event in Cedar City.

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Cedar City Police Department is hosting and paying for an event on criminal profiling and school shooters, featuring a speaker with no academic background in law enforcement or psychology, who’s known for serial killer fandom and his true crime podcast.

The event, titled “School Shooters and Warning Signs,” is an all-day training Friday at Cedar High School featuring speaker Phil Chalmers.

Chalmers currently resides in Florida and writes about true-crime, interviews serial killers, and tours the country giving trainings.

“The goal is to educate the school, and their faculty, mainly the teachers, and also our officers of what to do, how to be involved, when there’s a school shooting,” Sgt. Justin Ludlow with Cedar City Police Department said.

A scan of the flyer sent out advertising the event in Cedar City.

The flyer advertises “School Shooters and Warning Signs” will be taught from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. and “Profiling Dangerous People” will be taught from 12 p.m. (noon) – 4 p.m.

However, Chalmers does not have a background in law enforcement, nor a degree in psychology or criminal justice.

He does have a real estate license with RE/MAX and sold houses as recently as 2015. 

Chalmers’ website lists the following description of himself: “Phil Chalmers is a criminal profiler, a true crime writer, and a television personality.” According to the website, Chalmers has personally interviewed 500 convicted killers over 40 years.

A screenshot of Phil Chalmers website.

Chalmers offers a strange bonus for his biggest fans, allowing them, for the cost of $5 a month, to receive items Chalmers gets from serial killers. His website explains the offer, “Examine letters, artwork, and emails that Phil Chalmers receives every week from convicted killers, including serial killers, mass murderers, school shooters, juvenile killers, rapists and family annihilators.”

Despite his lack of experience with law enforcement or social psychology, Chalmers travels the country speaking to law enforcement and other groups, training them on how to profile criminals. His website lists the cost of these trainings at $149 per person, but does not list the cost to host one of his events.

“I believe the majority of the payment is coming from Cedar City Police, they did ask if we’d be willing to help a little if the cost was prohibitive,” Shauna Lund, spokesperson for Iron County School District said. “So far, we have not seen any invoice. … The superintendent did agree to help with that if needed.”

Ludlow said the police department is covering the cost of the Chalmers’ visit, but did not disclose the amount they were paying.

KSL TV received a letter from “concerned citizens” voicing their concerns about the event stating in part, “The speaker, Phil Chalmers, has no experience with schools, children, school security, law enforcement, or social service experience.” It continues, “From the perspective of several teachers and law enforcement agents this training goes against our professional training and our professional code of conduct.”

Lund emphasized that the training was not mandatory and was mostly for law enforcement.

“Teachers were made aware, counselors were made aware, administrators were made aware, that this is an opportunity and not mandatory,” Lund said.

Ludlow, on the other hand said the training was mostly for teachers and school staff.

“Our chief has just encouraged all law enforcement if we have time, and we’re available, to attend,” Ludlow said.

The flyer states the event will feature “live interviews with serial killers and school shooters,” and includes “causes, warning signs, triggers, modus operandi, and signatures.”

When asked about Chalmers’ background and expertise, both Lund and Ludlow focused on the need for any training to keep students safe.

“It is something teachers have requested, as there are concerns about safety and security like ‘how would we even know what to look for?'” Lund said. “We know teachers are the closest employees to students and they will be one of the first to notice if something has changed in a student’s behavior or if that student is struggling, so it’s just one of those tools to help them.”

“In my experience in law enforcement, the more training the better, and this was an opportunity to get more people trained, and be aware of the circumstances of an active shooter so that’s why we brought him in,” Ludlow said.

KSL TV has reached out to Chalmers for comment.

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Utah school shooting training called into question over speaker’s background