U of U to add staff, training after review following the murder of student Lauren McCluskey

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News)- Understaffed campus police and a computer error are just a couple of the problems that led to Lauren McCluskey’s tragic murder at the University of Utah campus.

That’s what an independent review team found as they investigated the handling of McCluskey’s case.

Wednesday the results from the independent review were released during a press conference.

University President Ruth V. Watkins opened the press conference by saying McCluskey’s killer, Melvin Rowland was a master manipulator, practiced liar and criminal.

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The independent review team found University of Utah Public Safety is woefully understaffed, which created an availability issue for McCluskey.

The system to check Rowland’s offender status also failed because it didn’t recognize his driver license number and parole agents weren’t notified that he was breaking parole.

“Systems are in place to flag offender status when an officer runs a driver license check…in this case notwithstanding that kind of a check was made…the system failed to work,” Former DPS Commissioner John T. Nielsen said.

The review team says campus housing staff delayed responding to McCluskey’s complaints about Rowland. 

Nielsen, team lead and law enforcement veteran, said more timely responses from police, better domestic violence training, and other problems involving campus police–including low pay and low retention which will take legislative action solve–may prevent something like this from happening again.

Other findings include:

  • Adding staff in the University of Utah’s Behavioral Intervention Team, Department of Public Safety (UUPS) and Housing and Residential Education (HRE).
  • Training police officers and HRE in the Lethality Assessment Program.
  • Streamlining the reporting process for cases that potentially involve personal safety.
  • Ensuring staff understand and enforce policies and protocols regarding guests in residence halls and guns on campus.
  • Directing police officers to conduct mandatory offender information checks when a suspect has been identified in a criminal case and matters more significant than routine traffic stops.
  • Evaluating current record management systems used by UUPS and HRE to see if better systems or upgrades should be adopted.
  • Improving communication between key entities on- and off-campus.

In addition, the U will be adding online educational courses for students which are expected to be in place by Summer 2019. Mandatory online training for students also is anticipated to be in place by Fall 2019.

Lauren’s mother took to social media a few days ago to express her heartbreak tweeting “Lauren should have come home for Christmas last week,” a clear reminder of the loss her family and the campus community has experienced because of the incident.

Additional information from the university:

Q. What recommendations from the report are you accepting? Do you disagree with anything in the report?

A. We agree with the review team’s assessment and accept all its recommendations. We have already implemented some actions in response to the team’s findings and are moving ahead with others, as outlined in our formal response.

Q. Why were the university’s housing policies not followed in this case?

A. This tragedy brought to light that we have work to do in enforcing housing policies and educating both our students and staff of the consequences of not following those policies. As stated in our response to the review team’s report, we have and are actively engaged in doing more to ensuring adherence to all policies.

Q. Are you taking any disciplinary action?

A. The review team’s report identified gaps in training, awareness and enforcement of certain policies rather than lapses in individual performance. We believe the solution to those problems is better training, awareness and education of staff and students.

Q. When will you release recordings and other documents related to the investigation of this case?

A. Materials related to this case will be reviewed for release once all investigations are complete.

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