New public safety committees announced

Two new public safety committees were created this month by University of Utah Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch and appointed by U President Ruth Watkins. The Public Safety Advisory Committee and the Independent Review Committee are comprised of students, faculty, and staff from across the institution and are designed to ensure a broad representation of constituents are included in public safety decision-making.

“Incorporating the community into the growth, development and oversight of public safety functions is essential in creating an environment built on trust and mutual respect,” Lynch said. “These committees will bring various perspectives and voices to the table so that university safety evolves in a way that best meets the needs of our community.”

Both committees will be managed by Keith Squires, executive officer in the Office of the Chief Safety Officer, who joined the U in July 2020.

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Keith Squires, executive officer in the Office of the Chief Safety Officer

As executive officer, Squires supports the Chief Safety Officer by managing these university safety committees, overseeing professional responsibility efforts throughout the department and serving as the liaison to city, state, tribal and federal public safety entities. Squires served over five years as the Commissioner of Public Safety for the State of Utah and retired in September 2018 after 31 years of service as a law enforcement officer. Shortly after, Squires was on the team that conducted the independent review after the tragic murder of U student Lauren McCluskey.

“I am impressed with the commitment from the administration to improve public safety at the University of Utah,” Squires said. “I’m honored to be part of these efforts and to continue the work of implementing the positive changes based on our initial recommendations.”

Squires served 11 years as the appointed homeland security advisor for Govs. Jon Huntsman and Gary Herbert and served the state in many other capacities, including as director of the State Bureau of Investigation, assistant superintendent to the Utah Highway Patrol and director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He served seven years as a law enforcement and public safety advisor for U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He holds a master’s degree in homeland defense and security from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and a bachelor’s degree in administration of criminal justice. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and FBI National Executive Institute.

Public Safety Advisory Committee

The Public Safety Advisory Committee is charged with assisting the chief safety officer with the development of the strategic direction of the department in order to enhance the safety and overall quality of life for the U community. The committee will offer advice and constructive criticism to the CSO and will assist in educating the U community about programs, services and initiatives offered by the department.

The committee will meet with the CSO and members of the leadership team monthly. The department will be prepared to present to the committee, for its review and consideration, trends and potential future issues, best practices, proposals for new programs, etc.

The committee will be responsible for reviewing current policies and procedures and making recommendations for their improvement. Specifically, the committee will:

  • Poll and report to the constituencies they represent, as appropriate, to advise the department on methods, tactics, programs and approaches to best ensure community safety
  • Consider various initiatives designed to improve community safety, taking into consideration cost-benefit analyses, weighing privacy concerns, image and liability issues, etc.
  • Make recommendations that address potentially contentious and/or forward-looking issues and considerations
  • Become knowledgeable in selected public safety topics with the ability to inform/educate other members of the U community
  • Provide information that assists in the effective development of communication strategies designed to reach members of the greater U community
  • Create greater awareness among key stakeholders about the ways in which the department works to protect the safety of the university, specifically people, property and reputation

The committee is composed of students and employees and includes representatives from the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU), the Academic Senate, Staff Council, Fraternity & Sorority Life, Athletics, University Hospitals and Clinics, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of General Counsel, Housing & Residential Education, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and others appointed based on areas of expertise. The inaugural co-chairs are ASUU Vice President of Student Relations Michelle Valdes and Presidential Intern Alvin Tsang.

An annual report will be published every spring that will be provided to the President’s cabinet and available at safety.utah.edu. The co-chairs will present a summary to the Academic Senate, ASUU and Staff Council.

To see the inaugural committee membership, click here.

Independent Review Committee

The Independent Review Committee exists to help ensure confidence in the U’s public safety functions by reviewing complaints made against public safety personnel, evaluating the actions of public safety personnel, and when necessary, making recommendations regarding policies and procedures. It will review complaints made by the public that are directly or indirectly related to issues of excessive force, violation of rights, abusive language or dereliction of duty. The committee is independent from the department and is not intended to replace the existing formal internal review and disciplinary procedures.

Complaints about public safety personnel may be reported to the department, the Independent Review Committee chair, the Office of the Chief Safety Officer, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs or the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and inclusion. These are referred to the executive officer for investigation.

Upon completing an investigation, the executive officer will make a determination about the complaint. Outcomes will fall into one of the following classifications:

  • Unfounded: The allegations are not factually accurate; the alleged conduct did not occur.
  • Exonerated: The alleged conduct did occur but was justified under the circumstances.
  • Sustained: The alleged conduct did occur and was not justified under the circumstances.
  • Not sustained: The written record of the investigation does not support a determination of whether the alleged conduct occurred. This classification is used whenever a case involves conflicting stories that are not clearly resolvable on the basis of evidence presented to the committee.
  • Administratively closed: No investigation was completed due to the fact that the complainant did not cooperate with the investigation (except in an instance of alleged serious or criminal violation).

In reviewing the executive officer’s determinations, the Independent Review Committee may:

  • Agree with the disposition of the complaint.
  • Identify an issue not raised in the original complaint that is raised in the report record and ask that the executive officer investigate the issue; the identified issue will be labeled “supplemental.”
  • Disagree with disposition of an allegation within a complaint and suggest an alternate disposition.
  • Suggest that the department consider different or additional sanctions for the university personnel involved in an incident.
  • If warranted, suggest that the department review its procedures and consider amending them to address a particular issue or concern.
  • Request information about an officer’s prior record. As part of its review, the committee may ask for a summary of past disciplinary action against an officer, as well as a summary of past commendations an officer has received.
  • Request to see department procedures related to recurring problems relevant to the complaint under review.

The committee is comprised of faculty members, students, and staff members. The inaugural chair is law professor Amos Guiora.

An annual report of all incidents, as well as any recommended changes to policies or procedures, will be produced annually for the CSO and will be made available to the campus community at safety.utah.edu.

To see the inaugural committee membership, click here.