EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Company behind weapons detectors in Salt Lake high schools facing federal investigation

Oct 17, 2023, 9:00 PM

Dome schools...

Weapon detector company facing federal investigation, four high schools in Salt Lake County District utilize the machines. (Aimee Cobabe/KSL NewsRadio)

(Aimee Cobabe/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City School District has new weapons detectors inside their four high schools. Tuesday was the first day with the machines at the doors.

But now Evolv, the company that makes the machines, is facing a federal investigation alleging they aren’t as effective as advertised. A spokesperson for the school district told KSL Newsradio the board approved a four-year $1.56 million dollar lease of the machines.

“If we see that this tool is effective, we may choose to continue working with them further,” said Salt Lake City District Spokesperson Yándary Chatwin in an email to KSL NewsRadio. “If we see that maybe it doesn’t make sense to continue, then the lease gives us some flexibility at the end of the four-year lease period.”

Weapons detectors spark concern

Former Unified Police Chief Chris Bertram said this is concerning. 

“I’ve seen this in law enforcement and other practices. Where somebody has come out with a great technology that sounds like it’s going to be awesome.

“And we implement it and we find out that it definitely undersells,” Bertram said. “And that is concerning to me, because when we spend the public’s money, we have to be diligent in that.” 

The machines use artificial intelligence to identify weapons. So instead of a traditional metal detector, this will let students walk in like normal. Without having to form a single file line. 

“We do not anticipate long back-ups like with the metal detectors at airport security, where people need to remove many items from their bags, pockets, etc,” Chatwin said. 

The detectors also require security guards to step in if the detectors flag anything. 

“We will have two security personnel at each entrance. With one additional “roving” security staffer to support where needed,” according to Chatwin.

On Tuesday, students at West High School said that after one day’s use, they were positive about the experience. 

“Past years, there’s been bomb threats. There have been gun threats. But I feel like our administration has been doing really well with keeping us safe,” said Soe Koko, a senior at West High School.

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Company behind weapons detectors in Salt Lake high schools facing federal investigation