NewsLocal News


Attorney: Fired U of U detective and now-Weber deputy was ‘scapegoat’ in McCluskey death; reasons for firing untrue

Posted at 1:22 PM, Aug 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-24 00:49:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A detective criticized for her handling of Lauren McCluskey's case prior to her murder was fired from the University of Utah for failing to take action in a similar case, but her attorney says that's not completely true.

Kayla Dallof was terminated from her position in March, and earlier this month she unanimously lost an appeal of that decision.

She is now working for the Weber County Sheriff's Office.

Dallof was warned after her handling of Lauren McCluskey's case. She opened a case but didn't alert anyone to the danger the student was in prior to taking her planned days off, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

McCluskey was shot and killed on campus last year.

"The University of Utah is on the wrong side of history in how they handled Lauren's case and how they responded to her death," said Lauren McCluskey's mother, Jill McCluskey.

"She was not disciplined for the McCluskey case," said Jonathan Thorne, an attorney representing Dallof. "I think the fact she wasn't disciplined speaks for itself."

Documents released by the University of Utah Friday indicate Dallof was fired over her handling of another case involving intimate partner violence.

The incident occurred February 13 of this year when a 17-year-old girl reported she had been held against her will in a male student's room. The girl also supplied the officer with a voicemail from that student where he threatened to kill her.

Rather than taking action, Dallof's supervisor said the detective elected to go home with plans to screen charges the following week.

Sergeant Kory Newbold wrote: "The message was very concerning from a victim of domestic abuse standpoint. The message was such that it should have been held for screening and the issue should have been addressed immediately... The resulting of what may have occurred is unthinkable, if the male student had attempted or carried out his threat of violence. Those we serve would be outraged if we failed to address this situation immediately."

The supervisor called the detective's actions "a complete dereliction of duty."

Thorne said the University of Utah misconstrued the actions of Dallof that night in an attempt to get her fired. He said Dallof kept her supervisor in the loop on the investigation, and that the two reached agreements together when making decisions on the case.

"Seeing her get railroaded by the University is something that isn't acceptable to me," Thorne said. "I believe she's a scapegoat for the McCluskey case."

Thorne said he is not aware of any Dallof receiving any other unfair treatment from supervisors since the McCluskey case. He shared with FOX 13 an audio recording of a conversation Dallof had with Sgt. Newbold that night, proving that Dallof returned that same night to make an arrest at the request of her supervisor.

"We need to go hook this guy and book him in jail tonight, so I’ll have to have you come back," Newbold says on the recording.

"Yeah, I’m flipping around," Dallof responds.

"Yeah, no choice on this one. Not with that voicemail," Newbold says. "I wish I heard it before you left. I was busy typing emails."

Thorne said the audio recording proves his client worked in tandem with her supervisor to comply with the standards of her department.

"She followed her orders as they were given to her," Thorne said. "Why wasn't (Newbold) fired?"

The Weber County Sheriff's Office posted photos in July, showing Dallof being sworn in as a deputy.

The agency issued a statement Friday saying they stand behind the decision and that Dallof "has excelled here at the sheriff's office in her duties and we look forward to seeing her to continue her success in her career at the Weber County Sheriff's Office."

The department did not comment on specific cases that Dallof was involved in while serving as a detective with the University of Utah Police Department, only stating that she passed background checks.

Sheriff Ryan Arbon has declined all interviews.

The department's statement is reproduced in its entirety below:

"The Weber County Sheriff’s Office would like to confirm the hiring of Deputy Kayla Dallof. After a thorough and complete background investigation, the Weber County Sheriff’s Office made the decision to hire Kayla Dallof as a sworn peace officer. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office background process involves many aspects and a thorough review of all employment history, Utah Peace Officer Standard and Training records as well as all criminal and financial history.

The Weber County Sheriff’s Office stands behind our decision in hiring Kayla and supports her in continuing her career as a law enforcement officer. Since hiring Kayla, she has excelled here at the sheriff’s office in her duties and we look forward to seeing her to continue her success in her career here at the Weber County Sheriff’s Office."

"We don’t have a comment on her hiring at the Weber County sheriff department," wrote Jill McCluskey in an email to FOX 13. "Kayla Dallof was complacent in her job at the University of Utah police.  She did not believe the seriousness of the threats to women when they reported to police. This underscores that there is a there is problem with the culture in the campus police and housing at the University of Utah to not take relationship violence seriously.  Training, policies, procedures, and slogans will not matter if University personnel do not respond with urgency to women’s concerns."

Thorne said he and his client have not yet decided whether to file a wrongful termination suit against the University of Utah. He said Dallof is now very happy with her new position as a deputy.