SALT LAKE CITY — Addressing the Lauren McCluskey murder and extortion case, a Utah lawmaker wants to criminalize the revictimization of a crime victim by police officers sharing intimate photos with any person outside the scope of an investigation.
Democratic Rep. Andrew Stoddard of Murray opened a bill that would prevent a law enforcement officer from downloading private images to a personal device.
We look at sexual assault crimes especially and wonder why they’re so underreported. It’s because of actions like this. — Rep. Stoddard
University of Utah track athlete Lauren McCluskey, 21, was killed Oct. 22,, 2018, by a sex offender parolee whom she had briefly dated. Melvin Rowland, 37, killed himself a few hours later as police closed in. A convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm, Rowland used a borrowed gun in the slaying.
The review from the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) found U. Officer Miguel Deras, who later left the campus police department, showed the photos to several other officers.
“You tweeted, representative, that the officer who was the focus of the review doesn’t deserve to be a cop. Do you still feel that way?” Debbie asked.
“I absolutely stand by that,” Stoddard said.
“Why is that?” Dave asked.
“This actions were clearly inappropriate. I understand their allegations at this point. From DPS’s report I think it’s clear multiple people saw these pictures. We look at sexual assault crimes especially and wonder why they’re so underreported. It’s because of actions like this,” Stoddard said. “People don’t trust law enforcement in a lot of these situations because a few bad officers mishandle information, don’t take it seriously, don’t do the work. So I think this has a chilling effect on victims coming forward.”
U. of U. Police Chief Rodney Chatman said investigators found no evidence to show the officer in question downloaded the photos inappropriately or shared them (digitally) with others. But it did find he showed the photos to some officers, who “inappropriately commented on the photos before, during or immediately after a shift change briefing,” which he called “inexcusable.”
“Officers [names redacted] remember hearing some unprofessional comments being made when the pictures were displayed,” the report stated.
“Why fired over just being disciplined?” asked Dave.
As an officer, Deras would have no credibility as a witness in court, which makes him unable to do his job, Stoddard said. He added, he believes the department should discipline any other officers allegedly involved in the McCluskey revictimization case.
Deras’ attorney, Jeremy Jones, said his client acted responsibly in his duties as an officer.
“Officer Deras did not show the photos to other officers following the briefing. He did not boast about being able to access the photos whenever he wanted,” Jones said.
‘No one deserves this re-victimization’
Debbie asked Stoddard what the implications of his bill would entail.
“Would cops be prosecuted?” she asked. “And how would you be able to prove it in court?”
Stoddard, who has worked with victims of domestic violence for much of his career, said his bill would make a violation a Class A misdemeanor on first offense for a law enforcement officer to copy, share or display an intimate image outside the scope of a police investigation. Any subsequent offense would be a third-degree felony.
Just opened my first priority bill that would prevent law enforcement from downloading private images to a personal device. Also, it would prevent sharing those images with anyone not involved in the investigation. No one deserves this re-victimization. #utpol #utleg #forLauren
— Andrew Stoddard (@RepAStoddard) May 18, 2020
I do not have words to adequately describe my disgust. Victims should never be treated this way, and this officer deserves to be reprimanded for his actions/inaction in this case. https://t.co/vSOjBEDMXJ
— Andrew Stoddard (@RepAStoddard) May 17, 2020
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