Allegations, questions after U of U police chief put on leave

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the university of utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) – The Utah Attorney General’s Office is investigating Rodney Chatman, the University of Utah Police chief hired earlier this year.

Chatman came on in the wake of Lauren McCluskey’s on-campus murder — and the subsequent criticism of how police handed her initial complaints.

ABC4 has learned Chatman has been placed on administrative leave by the university, but beyond that a spokesperson wouldn’t comment — citing this as a personnel matter.

When Chatman was hired in January, he specifically asked for an investigation into the department’s handling of the McCluskey case, and when results were published he pledged disciplinary action — and possible termination — of at least three members of the force.

Attorney Jeremy Jones represents those officers — including officer Miguel Deras, who was named in the published report — and says Chatman wasn’t certified by POST (Police Officer Standards and Training) at the time he was hired. That fact, he says, raises suspicion about the report’s credibility.

“Mr. Chatman was not certified as a law enforcement officer in Utah,” Jones told ABC4 Friday.

“And so he was not certified to act as a police officer in any capacity — let alone a police chief. And so all of these actions, these very public disciplinary actions, the adverse employment actions against a number of officers are invalid — because this individual did not have the authority to function in the capacity that he was functioning in,” said Jones.

In 2018, McClusky went to campus police for help. She was being extorted by an ex-boyfriend, who threatened to make public intimate photos of her unless she paid him money. He would later murder McCluskey on campus, and the way police handled her case has been scrutinized ever since. Deras was the officer who took McCluskey’s initial report, and he resigned from the force around the time Chatman started the job as chief in February 2020.

“The university wanted to scapegoat somebody so they could basically put on this face that they were engaging in reparative action or writing wrongs,” said Jones.

“All the while they were using somebody who didn’t have the authority to act in any of the ways that this person was acting. And so essentially this process was corrupted from the word go,” he added.

A spokesperson for Utah’s Dept. of Public Safety told ABC4 that Chatman is currently certified through POST. But as to when he was certified? That information wouldn’t be made public pending investigations, the spokesperson said.

Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, told ABC4 on Friday that she believed Chatman had been making progress toward improving the culture inside the University of Utah Police Dept.

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