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Issues pinpointed in audit of police departments at Utah colleges and universities

Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 00:20:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY — An audit of police departments at Utah higher education institutions says changes still need to be made.

That audit was presented Wednesday at the Utah State Capitol before the Legislative Audit Subcommittee.

Jake Dinsdale, the Audit Supervisor with the Legislative Auditor General's Office says multiple legislators requested a look at whether there was a different way to approach policing at universities.

"The data shows that 98% of public institutions have their own campus law enforcement agency," said Dinsdale.

The audit didn't recommend that university police responsibilities be delegated to city or county law enforcement agencies.

There were several key findings from the audit, including several data entry errors at nearly all eight of the public higher education institutions in Utah, when it comes to the Clery Act.

The Clery Act requires public and private colleges and universities to disclose information pertaining to certain crimes that happen on or near a campus.

Also highlighted were several issues on the University of Utah campus.  Findings in the audit show instances in which U of U entities didn't properly communicate safety information to university police.

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In particular, the audit shows, cases where U of U housing didn't make required reports to university police.

"The effect on these is simply the delay and the, you know, the loss of the opportunity to respond in a more timely manner," said Dinsdale.

This all comes more than three years after Lauren McCluskey was shot and killed outside her dorm by a man she dated.  That incident took place after McCluskey made several attempts to report she was being harassed.

Read - Initiative to stop dating violence launched on anniversary of Lauren McCluskey's murder

"When I came in to do an independent investigation of the university's response to Lauren McCluskey is just a great advance and support and resources being put forward to really address those coordination issues," said Keith Squires, Chief Safety Officer at the University of Utah.

Squires spoke about his goal if there is a threat or risk to those on the U of U campus.

"That they are able to have trust and get that information to our police department so that it can be immediately investigated," said Squires.

Overall, state higher education officials say there is a lot of work they can continue to do.

"Our institutions have done a lot to this point, and there is still more to do and we will continue to work on that," said David Woolstenhulme, Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner.

The audit made several recommendations, including having the University of Utah streamline their reporting to make it more effective. They are also asking higher education institutions to consider ways to improve police operations with both the independence and accountability of an outside entity.