Statement from Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch

Earlier this week, I informed my leadership team and the university’s administration of my decision to place Rodney Chatman on leave. Since that announcement, there has been a great deal of speculation about that decision. While I would not normally comment on a personnel matter, I believe it is in the interest of transparency and our commitment to earning the trust of our campus community to clarify and provide context for this decision.

Rodney Chatman was hired on Feb. 17, 2020, as the chief/director of University of Utah Police. He was previously a certified police officer in Ohio and chief of police at the University of Dayton.

Like all Utah law enforcement agencies, the university’s police chief/director must be certified by the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training. Law enforcement officers and leaders coming from outside of Utah who are not already POST certified, or who hold a similar certification in another state, must follow the Utah POST-certification requirements before representing themselves as a police officer.

As part of his hiring agreement, Rodney was given one year to obtain Utah POST-certification.

I want to clarify that over the past year despite not yet being Utah POST certified, Rodney had full authority to oversee University of Utah Police as a university department head, including making personnel, strategy and budget decisions. This is a common practice for veteran law enforcement leaders coming from outside the state who need to seek certification.

Prior to placing Rodney on leave earlier this week, I was made aware of an investigation by the Utah State Attorney General’s Office into allegations Rodney may have violated certain guidelines that are also criminal offenses, which could also adversely impact his Utah POST certification. This is a serious matter and I have expressed the university’s intent to cooperate fully in the AG’s investigation.

While I appreciate the important work Rodney has done on behalf of university safety over the past year, I cannot overlook these allegations and the impact they might have on his ability to maintain an active Utah POST certification. Hence, I made the decision to place Rodney on leave and have asked deputy chief Jason Hinojosa to oversee day-to-day operations of the police until this matter is resolved.

On a personal level, I acknowledge that Rodney came to the university at a very difficult and pivotal time for University of Utah Police and has helped guide it through a period of considerable change. He has helped me build a positive, responsive culture and to reorganize the department strategically to improve transparency, accountability and effectiveness.

I have no doubt that Rodney has a personal dedication to keeping the public safe and is passionate about positively influencing the lives of our campus community.

Additional background

Since 2019, all public safety functions at the U have been reorganized under the Office of the Chief Safety Officer. Prior to this restructuring, all public safety units reported through the U’s chief of police. Now, all units report through the chief safety officer, including U Health Security, Campus Security, Emergency Services, University Police and Community Services. The reorganization has included reallocating funding from the University of Utah Police to other parts of the university’s public safety infrastructure.

Several new committees have been developed under the Office of the Chief Safety Officer. These committees include students, faculty and staff and are designed to ensure broad representation in public safety decisions. One of the new committees, the Public Safety Advisory Committee, explores policies, training requirements and diversity strategies. An Independent Review Committee reviews citizen complaints of abusive language, violations of rights, use of excessive force and dereliction of duty brought against members of University Police. Following internal affairs reviews, this committee will be able to comment on policies and recommend procedural and communication changes.

The U is also seeking accreditation through both the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), as well as the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). The accreditation process began in early June 2020 with enrollment in the CALEA program; it is expected to take approximately 36 months and should be completed by mid-2023. IACLEA accreditation builds on this with a few additional requirements specific to higher education and will occur immediately after CALEA accreditation is achieved.

The University of Utah Police Department includes an investigations unit led by Lt. Heather Sturzenegger, a patrol unit led by Lt. Ryan Speers and an administrative unit led by Lt. Brian Wahlin. Associate Director Shawn Bryce recently joined the department to oversee a new community outreach program.

More information about the university’s safety efforts is available online at safety.utah.edu.