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Utah Lawmaker Plans Legislation To Discipline Police Officers Who Share Private Photos Of Victims

Photo of Lauren McCluskey
Courtesy University of Utah
Lauren McCluskey was a student and track athlete at the University of Utah when she was killed on campus by an ex-boyfriend in 2018.

In October 2018, University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey’s ex-boyfriend shot and killed her on campus. Before she was killed, McCluskey went to university police to report that someone was trying to extort her over intimate photos.

On Sunday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported McCluskey sent the explicit photos to Officer Miguel Deras as evidence. The story said Deras kept the photos on his phone and showed them to other officers who weren’t relevant to the case. 

However, a statement from University of Utah spokesperson Chris Nelson said they found no evidence that the officer acted inappropriately:

“The University of Utah Police Department completed an internal affairs investigation in February 2020 once it was alerted to these allegations and found no evidence that a former officer had “bragged” or shared any image from the investigation that wasn’t considered a legitimate law enforcement reason,” Nelson said. 

But Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, said he wants to hold police accountable.

“Our law enforcement community has a long way to go in terms of building trust with victims,” Stoddard said.

Stoddard is a prosecutor and said that kind of alleged behavior by the officer is one reason why domestic violence and sexual misconduct cases are underreported. The legislation would put into place civil or criminal penalties for officers who share private photos of victims. It would also include some sort of training for law enforcement. 

Victim advocates have criticized the University of Utah for its handling of McCluskey’s case. Last year, McCluskey’s parents filed a $56 million civil rights lawsuit against the school, claiming it violated Title IX, which protects students against discrimination based on sex. 

At a press conference Monday, Matt McCluskey, Lauren’s father, said he doesn’t think the officer’s actions were an isolated incident.

“It stemmed from a culture that did not take women seriously and refused to hold individuals accountable,” McCluskey said.

Stoddard said he’ll file the bill for next year’s general session and is also working with Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, on a related piece of legislation. Stoddard previously sponsored “Lauren’s Law,” a failed bill that arose from McCluskey’s murder. It would have held gun owners liable for crimes committed with firearms they lent out.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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