Main Navigation

U officers learn latest methods for trauma-informed investigations

In an effort to better serve victims of domestic and sexual violence, University of Utah Department of Public Safety officers are learning how to provide the best environment and services for individuals choosing to report these difficult crimes.

University police officers recently participated in training from South Carolina-based SASS Go who accomplishes their mission by protecting and supporting survivors, their families and the professionals who serve them.

The training is designed to give officers insight into the victim’s mindset and circumstances, providing officers with the skills to not only see the situation from a trauma informed lens but to address the circumstances efficiently, relinquishing bias and applying effective investigative strategies. Offered exclusively by SASS GO, the training is the first of its kind. The non-profit organization also provides professional safety education for all first responders, medical, and legal personnel as well as trauma informed self-defense training.

Chief Safety Officer Keith Squires became aware of this unique workshops when he and Jill McCluskey were asked to participate in the training by presenting information to a class of federal, state and local law enforcement investigators from South Carolina.

They shared information and perspectives about the tragic circumstances involving the murder of McCluskey’s daughter Lauren on the University of Utah campus in October 2023. Squires is the former commissioner of public safety for the State of Utah and was asked by then-U President Ruth Watkins to investigate the university’s police response to Lauren’s requests for help.

His investigation resulted in critical findings regarding the police response with recommendations that helped guide the university’s transformative safety changes since then. Squires enlisted the SASS Go team to conduct the innovative trainings for his officers in an ongoing effort to develop skills and enhance the department’s professional services.

SASS Go trainings have been endorsed by the McCluskey Family Foundation.

“Our history here is difficult because of what happened with Lauren’s murder and the failures that occurred,” Squires said. “Since that time, we’ve been working to really change the department, not only to provide what should have been in place then, but to now develop model practices that better help our community and possibly benefit other police agencies as well.”

SASS Go has trained over 20,000 people across four continents and continues to conduct trainings on university campuses and for law enforcement teams. Facilitators from the group were on the U’s campus four years ago.

Today, the U Public Safety Department is working hard to lead out and continually find ways to best serve all the people who make up our U community— especially for victims of crime, Squires said.

“This training is really designed to give police officers an opportunity to look at the same cases they would be investigating through the lens of the person who’s been victimized,” he explained. “We want to be more effective and considerate of the victim’s needs and to be empathetic of what they’re going through.”

“We also want to be able to help them not just after whatever has taken place, but also to protect them in the future through the whole process of recovery,” Squires said.

SASS Go conducted a training about intimate partner violence at the U following Lauren’s murder in 2018. The organization also conducted three private trainings for law enforcement officers during the 2024 University of Utah Campus Safety Summit on March 20-21.