Statement from Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch

Earlier this week, I informed my leadership team and the university’s administration of my decision to place Rodney Chatman on leave. Since that announcement, there has been a great deal of speculation about that decision. While I would not normally comment on a personnel matter, I believe it is in the interest of transparency and our commitment to earning the trust of our campus community to clarify and provide context for this decision.

Rodney Chatman was hired on Feb. 17, 2020, as the chief/director of University of Utah Police. He was previously a certified police officer in Ohio and chief of police at the University of Dayton.

Like all Utah law enforcement agencies, the university’s police chief/director must be certified by the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training. Law enforcement officers and leaders coming from outside of Utah who are not already POST certified, or who hold a similar certification in another state, must follow the Utah POST-certification requirements before representing themselves as a police officer.

As part of his hiring agreement, Rodney was given one year to obtain Utah POST-certification.

I want to clarify that over the past year despite not yet being Utah POST certified, Rodney had full authority to oversee University of Utah Police as a university department head, including making personnel, strategy and budget decisions. This is a common practice for veteran law enforcement leaders coming from outside the state who need to seek certification.

Prior to placing Rodney on leave earlier this week, I was made aware of an investigation by the Utah State Attorney General’s Office into allegations Rodney may have violated certain guidelines that are also criminal offenses, which could also adversely impact his Utah POST certification. This is a serious matter and I have expressed the university’s intent to cooperate fully in the AG’s investigation.

While I appreciate the important work Rodney has done on behalf of university safety over the past year, I cannot overlook these allegations and the impact they might have on his ability to maintain an active Utah POST certification. Hence, I made the decision to place Rodney on leave and have asked deputy chief Jason Hinojosa to oversee day-to-day operations of the police until this matter is resolved.

On a personal level, I acknowledge that Rodney came to the university at a very difficult and pivotal time for University of Utah Police and has helped guide it through a period of considerable change. He has helped me build a positive, responsive culture and to reorganize the department strategically to improve transparency, accountability and effectiveness.

I have no doubt that Rodney has a personal dedication to keeping the public safe and is passionate about positively influencing the lives of our campus community.

Additional background

Since 2019, all public safety functions at the U have been reorganized under the Office of the Chief Safety Officer. Prior to this restructuring, all public safety units reported through the U’s chief of police. Now, all units report through the chief safety officer, including U Health Security, Campus Security, Emergency Services, University Police and Community Services. The reorganization has included reallocating funding from the University of Utah Police to other parts of the university’s public safety infrastructure.

Several new committees have been developed under the Office of the Chief Safety Officer. These committees include students, faculty and staff and are designed to ensure broad representation in public safety decisions. One of the new committees, the Public Safety Advisory Committee, explores policies, training requirements and diversity strategies. An Independent Review Committee reviews citizen complaints of abusive language, violations of rights, use of excessive force and dereliction of duty brought against members of University Police. Following internal affairs reviews, this committee will be able to comment on policies and recommend procedural and communication changes.

The U is also seeking accreditation through both the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), as well as the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA). The accreditation process began in early June 2020 with enrollment in the CALEA program; it is expected to take approximately 36 months and should be completed by mid-2023. IACLEA accreditation builds on this with a few additional requirements specific to higher education and will occur immediately after CALEA accreditation is achieved.

The University of Utah Police Department includes an investigations unit led by Lt. Heather Sturzenegger, a patrol unit led by Lt. Ryan Speers and an administrative unit led by Lt. Brian Wahlin. Associate Director Shawn Bryce recently joined the department to oversee a new community outreach program.

More information about the university’s safety efforts is available online at safety.utah.edu.

2019 Campus safety statistics now available

The University of Utah’s 2020 Annual Security & Fire Safety Reports are now available with data from 2019. The reports, one for Utah and one for the Utah Asia Campus, include statistics about criminal offenses, hate crimes, arrests and referrals for disciplinary action, and Violence Against Women Act offenses. It also provides information about safety and security-related services offered by the University of Utah.

Of note, burglaries decreased by 47% between 2018 and 2019. This is likely due to the fact that there was a serial burglar in 2018 who committed repeated offenses on campus and in Salt Lake. Additionally, domestic violence and fondling cases decreased, while dating violence, rape and stalking increased.

The University of Utah and the community have resources available to support victims of sexual assault, and in mid-2019 University Police created and filled a new victim-advocate position. Since then, the victim advocate has become director of the new Community Services division, which currently employs three social workers who work in tandem with police and campus partners to support victims of all crimes and are available 24/7. The division is also working to develop and implement a joint response and independent services for victims and mental health crisis.

This report is created annually in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, commonly referred to as the Clery Act. The act seeks to standardize campus crime reporting so students, staff, faculty and visitors can learn about institutions’ crime histories. The report also fulfills the State of Utah requirement for a Campus Safety Plan.

The U report covers the main campus in Salt Lake City; the Sandy Center; the Graduate Center in St. George; the Bonderman Field Station at Rio Mesa in Grand County, Utah; the Range Creek Field Station in Emery County, Utah; and the Taft-Nicholson Environmental Humanities Center in Montana. The U Asia Campus report covers the campus in Incheon, South Korea.

The reports are available online. If you would like a printed copy, visit the University of Utah Public Safety building, 1735 E. South Campus Drive, or the Office of the Dean of Students at the Utah Asia Campus. Questions regarding the reports can be directed to the Office of the Chief Safety Officer at safeu@utah.edu.

Safety resources

SafeU

Initiated through the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety, SafeU continues to serve as a centralized and comprehensive campus safety website. Students and community members can find important information on a range of topics, from how to report a crime to various safety-related and prevention trainings. Visit safeu.utah.edu for more information.

Ride services

Campus Security and U Health Security offer courtesy escort services 24/7. To request a courtesy escort call 801-585-2677 for main campus and 801-581-2294 for the University Hospital.

The SafeRide program also provides on-demand transportation services at night through Commuter Services.

Crime prevention and safety tips

Responsibility for a crime lies with the person committing it; however, there are some things individuals can do to reduce the risk of experiencing crime. Prevention and safety tips can be found online.

U Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch participated in virtual panel discussion “Coming Together on Police Reform”

On Monday, Dec. 14, University of Utah Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch participated in a virtual panel discussion about the intersection of mental health and policing, hosted by the Better Utah Institute and League of Women Voters of Salt Lake.

In addition to Lynch, panelists included Elizabeth Klc, director of the Utah Substance Use and Mental Health Advisory; Jessica Waters, social work director with the Salt Lake City Police Department Mental Health and Substance Abuse Unit; and Misty Mulkey, peer leader at Journey of Hope.  Moderated by Emily Salisbury, director of the Utah Criminal Justice Center at the University of Utah College of Social Work, the group discussed how agencies could work together to "bridge the gap" between police and communities in Utah.

During the conversation, presenters spoke about the challenges faced by public safety servants in responding to and supporting those facing mental health crises. Panelists explored topics such as early intervention, better opportunities for underrepresented groups, understanding of police officers’ needs and capabilities, and the connection between early traumas and mental illness.

Panelists agreed that it is crucial to provide education to Utah communities about how to access available resources and support from different service providers.

"Every agency plays a role," Lynch said. "There are resources established and options available to assist people, and police officers are not the only one. We need to continue to educate our public safety staff and our communities about it. We have to make it a campaign."

One of the themes centered on rebuilding trust in local, state, and national law enforcement. The panelists felt that collaboration, support, restructuring, and reconciliation are integral elements to the process.

"We are in the process of re-establishing the credibility of our department, and we are taking the approach of inclusivity," Lynch said. "The Public Safety Advisory Committee, co-chaired by two students, is an important part of that as we share our strategic initiatives and they share their feedback. We listen to them so that we understand what is important to them.”

More than 160 people registered for the Zoom event, which was also broadcast through the Better Utah Institute Facebook page. It was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Salt Lake, NAACP Salt Lake Branch, Better Utah Institute, ACLU of Utah, and the Utah Black Roundtable.

Emergency Management: Coordinating crisis response

Many universities have a little-known office dedicated to planning and preparing for emergencies. At the University of Utah, Emergency Management is a unit within University Safety’s Emergency Services division that has the critical task of planning, training, exercising and preparing the U community and the environment for all kinds of crises.

While many students may not know about Emergency Management, this unit has the important task of preparing the U community for emergency situations. Examples include natural hazards, building fires, evacuations, active shooter situations, violent events and public health emergencies, such as COVID-19.

"We're not the subject matter experts in every hazard situation," said Stuart Moffatt, associate director of the Emergency Management unit. "A great deal of our job is partnering with other first responders. For example, suppose an earthquake were to occur and cause building damage. In that case, we are responsible for coordinating all the first responders needed in that scenario, including those responsible for shutting off the gas. If we experience an active shooter, then U Police will be the first to respond, and we will support them."

With the current pandemic, public health professionals are the lead agency, and Emergency Management is responsible for facilitating partnerships with other organizations that experience downstream consequences, such as Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Facilities Management, University Safety, Housing & Residential Education, etc.

"Facilitation is an important part of what we do," Moffatt said. "A common example is dealing with snow on campus. Facilities Management monitors the weather closely and may ask us to initiate a call early in the morning to discuss impacts. If they anticipate not being able to keep sidewalks and parking lots cleared, we convene to discuss options like starting classes later or canceling for the whole day. It starts with Facilities Management, but it has implications across the university, from the health system to classes and events on campus to childcare services. "

Emergency Services in action

Jeff Graviet, director of Emergency Services, says the entire division has seen unprecedented changes throughout the years, but especially during the last few months.

"Under the leadership of our new chief safety officer, who brings with him a breadth and depth of experience, we're seeing a shift in safety culture," Graviet said. "There's a stronger awareness that our division plays a crucial role in university safety. There's a higher demand for and dependency on our services."

Since March, the division has engaged regularly with U President Ruth Watkins and her cabinet to help leadership understand the situation and allow them to act — turning policies to operations.

"We provide the dashboard information that's most critical for the president and cabinet to review to make decisions about adjustments to campus operations," Graviet said.

A few years ago, Emergency Services moved into a new space in the S.J. Quinney College of Law Building that has allowed it to be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also has the tools and software in place to send out appropriate notifications and respond to a crisis faster.

To sign up for emergency alerts, students, faculty, and staff should register their number by logging into CIS at cis.utah.edu and selecting the Campus Alert link.

Mountain lion sighting in Red Butte Canyon

Mountain lion sighting in Red Butte Canyon

[Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 | 1:02 pm]

Mountain lion spotted in Red Butte Canyon around 11:30 a.m. Use caution in the area. More at: https://safety.utah.edu/campus-alerts/

Around 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, a mountain lion was spotted in Red Butte Canyon, about 500-700 feet past the second gate and about 50-100 feet off the dirt trail. The animal was near the creek and the fence and was not seen acting aggressively.

Because this area is often used for hiking and dog walking, it is important that visitors be extra cautious and aware of their surroundings or avoid the area altogether.

The following safety tips for hikers are relevant any time of year.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid distractions. Try to avoid isolated or dark areas. Hike in groups whenever you can—there is safety in numbers.
  • Pay attention to the trail and where you step.
  • Do not venture off designated trails.
  • Use GPS or physical maps to help you know where you’re going and how to leave.

University of Utah Police join the “One Mind Campaign” to improve response to those affected by mental illness

This month, University of Utah Police joined the One Mind Campaign, an initiative from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) that seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons affected by mental illness by encouraging law enforcement organizations to connect with local communities, public safety organizations, and mental health organizations.

To become “one mind,” law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices over a 12- to 36-month period to improve police response to individuals with mental illnesses. These practices include establishing a sustainable partnership with a community mental health organization, developing a model policy to implement police response to those affected by mental illness, training and certifying officers and staff in mental health first aid training or other mental health awareness course, and providing crisis intervention team training.

“U Police is committed to the health, safety, and wellness of its community,” U Police Director Rodney Chatman said. “As a 24-hour entity that never closes, it is important that our officers are attuned to the unique needs of the community we serve and are trained to provide a compassionate approach to mental wellness calls. This is the impetus of our pledge to become a 'One Mind' police agency.”

Working closely with U Police, University Safety’s Community Services division offers round-the-clock support from qualified social workers. They can be reached by the U community at any time by calling 801-585-2677 and asking for a crisis support specialist.

Support and resources

Additional support and resources are available at the SafeU website, through the SafeUT app, and through the U’s Basic Needs Center. Counseling and support services are available from several entities on campus:

THE INTERSECTION OF EDI AND PUBLIC SAFETY

Amid a tense political climate and deadly pandemic, national protests against police brutality and systemic racism have drawn attention to the need for rethinking and reforming traditional policing.

The summer of social unrest tied to the fight for racial and social justice also has prompted soul-searching at colleges and universities nationwide, as campuses experience an uptick in racist incidents and students voice concerns about interactions with police.

In response, University Safety, in collaboration with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, is committed to rethinking the way public safety operates and serves the U community. A new public safety structure, along with new initiatives, was recently launched and aim to evolve these services on our campus and increase transparency. These changes are built on the values of equity, inclusion, and compassion.

In addition to our roles as vice president of EDI and chief safety officer at the university, these issues are personal for us. As members of the Latinx and African-American communities, we know firsthand the impact of racial profiling and police brutality on Brown and Black people. Because policing is viewed through different racial and cultural lenses, EDI is a critical component in how public safety will operate on the university campus.

First, we want the community to understand that public safety services at the U extend beyond policing. We know that many instances do not require a law enforcement response. At the U, a new Community Services division was created earlier this year to work in tandem with police and campus partners to provide victim services and crisis support to victims of any crime. Additionally, EDI’s resources and programs provide opportunities for public safety personnel to increase cultural awareness and capacity to respond to individuals with different needs, backgrounds, and abilities.

In moving forward, we have engaged campus community members to gain their insights on the role of campus policing and how we can make it an equitable system for all. Those discussions brought out the need to combat inherent biases that influence how we engage and interact with each other. As a result, University Police added an implicit bias component to officer training to recognize race-driven responses to crime.

In the Office of the Chief Safety Officer, two new public safety committees, comprised of students, faculty, and staff, were created to provide diverse perspectives and voices in the development and oversight of public safety functions. Additionally, a new special assistant to the chief safety officer position was created to work closely with EDI and Student Affairs to address and improve safety from a holistic perspective. This position also coordinates the incident response process which originally began in 2018 and was most recently updated and adopted by the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team.

These initiatives are just some of the steps we have taken to foster a campus climate in which all students and staff can thrive without fear or discrimination. We encourage the entire community’s support and participation in efforts to create a safe and more inclusive U.

Mary Ann Villarreal
Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Marlon C. Lynch
Chief Safety Officer

A Night at the Museum

When you think about campus security officers, you might picture individuals patrolling, locking and unlocking buildings, or providing courtesy escorts and motorist assistance. However, some members of the University of Utah Campus Security team have some unexpected talents and expertise.

A team of six security officers who work in the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) do more than traditional security work. Apart from their regular training in First Aid, CPR, and other safety techniques, these security officers receive hands-on training specific to the museum, which has labs, hosts field trips, and holds priceless artifacts.

"We rely on them not only for the security of our building, staff, and visitors, but also to protect the material that we hold—collections for the benefit of the public," said Janaki Krishna, collection register for the museum.

The Team

Ronald Desjardins has worked as a security officer at the museum for half a decade and has also volunteered more than 100 hours with the museum’s paleontologists. Officer Amy Lange’s security work involves monitoring mice, insects, and snakes that enter the museum. She also has experience volunteering in the curator’s team with vertebrates. Gerardo Robles, a bilingual officer, started to work at the NHMU when he was a teenager as part of the Youth Teaching Youth program. Officer George Lowry is a member of the museum's Emergency Planning Committee that prepares for disasters and conducts regular evacuation/fire drills. Tyler Dawson works at the museum while also attending classes at the U. Finally, Austin Dye lives the real-life version of “Night at the Museum” as the night security officer.

“As security officers here, we have unique opportunities to learn about the work going on in the museum,” said Desjardins. “We’ve learned about ‘prospecting,’ or hunting for fossils, and about how new species of dinosaurs are identified and named after those who discover them.”

With the current pandemic, these security officers took on a whole new set of duties to assist with public health protocols, such as temperature checks for museum staff who work on-site.

“When the direction came to close the museum to the public and transition staff to remote work, our bustling building quickly emptied, but our diligent Campus Security team remained 24/7,” said Chief Operating Officer Abby Curran. “They’ve been a critical part of our team—keeping our building, collections, and the limited staff coming onsite safe and secure during this time.”

Public Health Safety

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Natural History Museum of Utah has implemented a variety of changes to support visitor safety, such as limiting capacity in the galleries by requiring ticket reservations. These can be reserved online. More safety precautions are outlined here.

*Images and video: ©️NHMU / NHMU footage provided by Blank Space: Alec Lyons and Colby Bryson.