SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah officials Wednesday revealed new measures aimed at improving safety and security on campus after the death of a track star who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend.
An independent review team announced its findings and recommendations after reviewing the murder of Lauren McCluskey and the police response to complaints she had made about her ex-boyfriend in the days before her death. Among other things, the independent review found the school’s public safety department is “severely” understaffed.
School president Ruth Watkins confirmed campus officials will be beefing up staffing, not just at the Department of Public Safety, but also at Housing and Residential Education and the University of Utah’s Behavioral Intervention Team.
Other changes announced in response to the report include training police officers and employees in Housing and Residential Education in something known as the Lethality Assessment Program. This streamlines the reporting process for cases that could potentially affect personal safety, educating staff with an eye toward understanding and enforcing campus policies about guests in residence halls and firearms on campus.
It seeks to improve communications between on-and-off-campus entities, and directing police officers to conduct “mandatory offender information checks” for any criminal investigation more serious than a traffic stop.
“We are acting on all the insights and recommendations in the review team’s report, which identified gaps in our training, awareness and enforcement of certain policies and offers us a road map for strengthening security on our campus,” Watkins said.
McCluskey was killed Oct. 22 by Rowland, a convicted sex offender and parole violator.
“I am holding myself and my leadership team responsible for making these changes,” Watkins said. “Our commitment to Lauren, her friends and family, as well as our students, parents, staff, faculty and community is that safety will continue to be a top priority at the University of Utah.”
State investigators also say they need to make improvements in how they share information between agencies. Rowland was well known within the Utah penal system, since he had been paroled twice.
“He was meeting with his parole agents. He was making himself available and he always had and said the right things,” according to Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson.
However, Rowland reportedly used many aliases to throw investigators off his scent. He’s accused of using a fake name to get a state ID, so, when McCluskey reported him to campus police, they were looking up a name with a fake ID number.
“That number did not correlate or coordinate back into that tracking mechanism. Therefore, the officers were never alerted that he was on probation or parole,” Anderson says.
They want to increase the amount of training police and dispatchers get for the O-Track system, which tracks offenders and where they go. Plus, they want the state to look into their Public Safety Alert Notification System, which alerts a parole agent when someone asks about one of their parolees. Anderson says agents have to sift through an average of 25 thousand notifications every month.
He says, “We recommend that it be re-evaluated and looked at as to create ways to be able to understand and create proper alerts to those who are on probation and parole.”