Update: On October 22, 2020 a settlement was announced between the McCluskey family and the University of Utah.
The parents of Lauren McCluskey have raised important questions and understandable concerns about campus safety and whether the university’s public safety, student housing and other departments did everything they could to prevent the crime that took their daughter’s life. Lauren’s friends, teachers and all members of the university community grieve the loss of this vibrant and promising young student and athlete. That said, we are aware that nothing can compare to the heartache of parents who have lost their daughter to a violent crime.
Precisely because serious questions were immediately raised about the university’s response in Lauren’s case and their implications for campus security, the president in October 2018 promptly commissioned an independent and thorough review from three outside experts covering every aspect of campus security. Those experts included two highly respected former commissioners of public safety in Utah and a former university chief of police who now serves as the head of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). The report was received in late December and includes specific recommendations for improvement in policing, security and campus communications.
The report identified areas of deficiency in the university’s systems and processes and made 30 recommendations for ways to improve them. The university is acting immediately to correct the deficiencies identified in the report. Work is underway to implement every one of the 30 recommendations made by the review team. It is the university’s position that we must give our leadership and staff the training and resources to learn from this tragedy and work as a team to make our campus as safe as we possibly can for our students, staff, faculty and visitors.
No one can fully appreciate and share the grief of the McCluskey family and Lauren’s friends, but we do share their concern for the safety and security of current and future students and a commitment to the safety and well-being of our campus community.
The full report and the university’s response can be viewed online here.
What is the university doing to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again?
The university has accepted the independent review team’s 30 findings and recommendations in their entirety and is implementing the recommended changes. The university acknowledges serious mistakes and weaknesses were found and officials from across campus are working every day to correct those mistakes and to provide a safe environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
It seems concerning that Rowland was allowed on campus after Lauren and the McCluskeys reported concerns about him. Why wasn’t he prohibited from returning to campus?
The University of Utah, located in Salt Lake City, is an open public research university and home to a major academic medical center; each weekday, the university sees upward of 60,000 students, staff, faculty, patients and visitors on campus.
In terms of Rowland’s access to Lauren’s campus housing, this case brought to light deficiencies in enforcing existing policies about non-university affiliated overnight guests. The university has already taken steps to educate staff and residents about its housing policies and to provide ongoing training to both students and housing staff of the consequences of not following those policies. The Campus Safety Taskforce is also evaluating other measures that might provide better monitoring of the housing safety policies and detection of those who violate those policies.
In addition, the university’s Housing and Residential Education program has streamlined its reporting protocol. A single point of contact now takes complaints or concerns regarding interpersonal relationship issues and that person interfaces directly with the university’s Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT). The BIT includes representatives from campus police, housing, campus counseling services, victim advocates and the dean of students. In Lauren’s case, the BIT was never fully activated or fully made aware of Lauren’s concerns.
Is anyone at the university being disciplined in relation to this incident?
The university does not comment on or publicize employee discipline. This case brought to light gaps in training, awareness and enforcement of university policies, as well as the need to update and change certain policies in both its housing and police departments. All of the independent review team’s recommendations for improving and changing certain processes have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.
What actions by the University of Utah Department of Public Safety have been completed or are in progress?
- The U’s Department of Public Safety (UUDPS) has implemented a directive requiring a mandatory offender information check when a suspect has been identified in criminal cases and all matters more significant than routine traffic stops.
- UUDPS has implemented a protocol requiring all important information gathered by security personnel be added to the police records management system.
- UUDPS has increased mandatory trainings its officers receive on active shooter, interpersonal violence, sexual assault, trauma-informed interviewing, use of Narcan and crisis intervention. It also has increased resources for its Rape Aggression Defense program, which provides self-defense training to women (students, faculty, staff and their female children).
- UUDPS has implemented a new directive that, when possible, same-day contact with a victim be made at the beginning of any case with the potential to affect personal safety.
- UUDPS officers and detectives are now routinely making use of law enforcement databases.
- UUDPS has adopted procedural changes that coordinate communication among relevant personnel, specifically detectives assigned to cases and the on-call detective.
- UUDPS has implemented procedures to ensure that critical emails and voicemails are addressed in a timely manner regardless of whether an officer or detective is off-duty.
- UUDPS has implemented a directive that, when possible, interviews with complainants and victims be conducted in a private area.
- UUDPS has issued a directive to officers and detectives that in-person meetings, whenever possible, be held with complainants/victims in criminal cases and significant matters beyond routine traffic stops.
- UUDPS has met with the leadership of the Center for Student Wellness to discuss mutual concerns and ways to improve communication, coordination and cooperation.
- UUDPS has applied for national accreditation through IACLEA.
- The university has opened a new Emergency Coordination Center, located in the S.J. Quinney College of Law Building.
- UUDPS anticipates its officers will complete the full Lethality Assessment Protocol training by spring 2019. The assessment will be incorporated in its practices going forward.
- UUDPS is making key hires immediately. These include:
- Two detectives
- A victim advocate
- A part-time evidence technician
- An administrative lieutenant
- A public information/community relations officer
- The victim advocate UUDPS is hiring will provide advocacy services through UUDPS and coordinate advocacy efforts with the Center for Student Wellness and Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
- Detectives will work closely with the victim advocate to ensure that reports of potential interpersonal violence are appropriately handled. Police staff will also receive regular training on various subjects, including interpersonal violence.
- The university will be conducting education and training for all campus employees and students regarding procedures and protocols, which are in line with state law, for the reporting to the Department of Public Safety of actual or possible campus firearms violations.
- UUDPS will review practices of universities who use specialized domestic violence units and determine whether it would be beneficial to implement such an approach.
- UUDPS will enhance training to ensure that employees are familiar with and understand what information is available in law enforcement databases and how to use it. This is occurring now and will be ongoing.
- UUDPS is reviewing its policing policies as recommended by the review team and updating as needed to make them more specific to campus policing.
- UUDPS has met with the Utah Department of Corrections to discuss mutual concerns and facilitate better coordination and cooperation.
It seems that Lauren’s case should have been prioritized and followed more closely by university police. Why didn’t things move more urgently?
The university has acknowledged that UUDPS viewed Lauren McCluskey’s case through the lens of an extortion case, rather than as a case of potential interpersonal violence. As a result, there was an insufficient sense of urgency regarding the case.
The independent review team pointed out in both its report and during its press conference the need for changes to processes and additional resources for the university’s Department of Public Safety. Those changes, which have already been implemented include:
- Increased training to help police officers identify and appropriately address situations of potential interpersonal violence.
- Requiring detectives to work closely with victim advocates to ensure that reports of potential interpersonal violence are appropriately handled.
- Adopting procedural changes that coordinate communication among relevant personnel—specifically detectives assigned to cases and the on-call detective.
- Implementing procedures to ensure that critical emails and voicemails are addressed in a timely manner regardless of whether an officer or detective is off-duty.