Students And Family Respond To Report That Officer Shared Private Photos Of Lauren McCluskey
A report released Wednesday by the Utah Department of Public Safety found that a University of Utah police officer showed explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey to colleagues and that some officers made inappropriate comments about them.
McCluskey, who was a student at the university in 2018, emailed the photos to Officer Miguel Deras as part of an extortion report about her ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland. McCluskey was later killed by Rowland on campus.
The public safety report outlines that Deras showed the photos to at least three officers who were not involved in McCluskey’s investigation. However, DPS found no evidence that the explicit images were downloaded on Deras’ phone, but the report did indicate that Deras had accessed the images through his work email on his phone.
The state’s report came in response to a story by the Salt Lake Tribune in May that raised questions about an internal investigation by the university following McCluskey’s death. As a result, Campus Police Chief Rodney Chatman called for a new investigation into the department, to be conducted this time by DPS.
Chatman responded to Wednesday’s DPS report, saying that the behavior of officers outlined in the report won’t be tolerated and that they’re pursuing actions against individual officers.
“We will continue to strive to be better, to hold each other accountable and to serve our community with the utmost integrity,” Chatman said.
In a statement, McCluskey’s parents called the university’s initial report “incomplete and disingenuous” and are asking for the university to do another investigation into their daughter’s murder.
“The University of Utah continues to mislead, cover up the facts, and fail to take responsibility for the murder of our daughter,” the statement read.
After the Tribune released its May report, Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, said he would plan legislation to discipline police officers who share private photos of victims. On Wednesday, Stoddard posted a draft of the bill on Twitter.
“As a former victim advocate/attorney, this issue is important to me,” Stoddard wrote.
Unsafe U, a student group that formed after McCluskey’s murder, released a statement expressing “outrage” at the findings in the DPS report.
“It is clear that the University of Utah continues to prioritize their public image over meaningful policy changes and institutional accountability,” the post says.
The group is hosting a protest Thursday at the University of Utah Campus Police Department. They’re calling for Deras to be fired from his current job with the Logan Police Department as well as demanding more transparent investigations from the campus police. Ultimately, the group wants to dissolve the University of Utah Police Department altogether.
Others called out University of Utah President Ruth Watkins directly on Twitter. In 2018, Watkins commented that a University review of the McCluskey case didn't “offer any reason to believe this tragedy could have been prevented.”
@RuthVWatkins do you still stand by your statement, “There is no reason to believe that [Lauren’s] death could’ve been prevented.” I mean....what if your officers, like Deras, spent the same time looking at her murderer’s background as they did her pictures??— Bre Lasley (@bre_lasley) August 5, 2020
Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow Emily on Twitter @Em_Means13