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Education

Students ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ As University Of Utah Police Roll Out New Bodycam Policy

Close-up of police body camera
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University of Utah police will start wearing body cameras in an effort to build trust with the campus community.

After mishandling the 2018 murder of student athlete Lauren McCluskey, the University of Utah and its police department have struggled to build trust with students and others on campus.

Acting Police Chief Jason Hinojosa said equipping officers with body cams is just one way to start mending that relationship.

“It just boils down to transparency so that we know what our officers are doing in the field,” Hinojosa said. “If the question ever arose in the public or in the campus community, we could answer that as well.”

He said right now they’re operating under an interim rule to allow the use of the cameras, which have already been purchased. Hinojosa said the department is in a five-year contract with Axon to supply them.

The acting police chief said every officer will wear a body cam and activate it when they’re out on service calls. They won’t be used during social events, like football games.

Devon Cantwell, with the student organization UnsafeU, said the group is “cautiously optimistic” about the interim policy. But she said they’re worried about protecting victims’ privacy, especially if police are responding to incidents like sexual assault.

“Those are extremely sensitive types of interactions that you're going to have with police officers,” Cantwell said. “We also are concerned about the fact that people might be deterred from reporting these instances because they don't want to be recorded.”

The current rule gives officers some discretion to turn off their cameras in those types of situations, and Hinojosa said they’re also able to redact private information and blur faces to protect people’s identities.

The University Safety office is seeking public feedback on its interim policy before it’s finalized.

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