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U of U police chief's attorney says he's a 'scapegoat' being forced out of his position

Posted at 4:51 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 19:28:12-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The attorney for the University of Utah’s new police chief says he’s being forced out for persistent concerns over how the Lauren McCluskey murder was mishandled and transparency with the case.

Chief Rodney Chatman’s attorney declined to talk to FOX 13 Monday, but Kathleen McConkie told The Salt Lake Tribune he is being treated like a “scapegoat” and denies any criminal wrong-doing.

READ: U of U explains decision to place Chatman on leave

McConkie is reported as saying Chief Chatman was asked earlier this month to resign or be terminated. While given three weeks to decide, he was later put on leave.

McConkie said administration told Chatman the university was getting pushback and facing a possible legal complaint over an August release of an independent investigation that found an officer showed co-workers explicit photos McCluskey submitted as evidence before she was killed on campus.

McConkie also told the Salt Lake Tribune administrators at the U worried the school could face a misdemeanor charge for releasing the report with some officer names not redacted.

An attorney for one of the officers argues the university acted improperly and his client, Miguel Deras, ended up losing his job because of their actions.

READ: Logan PD terminates officer who 'mishandled' McCluskey evidence at U of U

“I do believe it was a number of months potentially six months or more that he functioned as the chief of police without being certified,” said Jeremy Jones, Deras’ attorney.

Jones also argues Chief Chatman did not have proper police certification in Utah and shouldn’t have been making personnel and other critical decisions.

"If you’re not certified as a law enforcement officer, you can’t undertake police authority. If you’re not a police officer, how then can you function legally or lawfully as a chief of police?” Jones told FOX 13 News.

READ: Students demand action against officer involved with Lauren McCluskey case

The university confirms Chief Chatman had the proper authority to make decisions while awaiting Utah P.O.S.T. certification. The Utah Department of Public Safety confirms Chief Chatman has since earned certification after moving from Ohio in February.

Chief Chatman is the subject of an investigation by the Utah Attorney General’s Office. McConkie declined an interview with FOX 13 News Utah on Monday.