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BYU Police fight to keep certification in appeal hearing

BYU Police Department vehicles outside the department offices on the BYU campus in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY – An appeal hearing was held on Monday to help determine if the BYU Police should keep their certification, continuing an ongoing battle since 2019.

From 2014 to 2016, former BYU Police Lt. Aaron Rhoades made 16,000 searches on a police database shared between agencies in Utah County. 

But that database also contained people’s personal information. That information was illegally forwarded 21 times to BYU’s Honor Code or Title IX offices.  

In most cases, information on victims of rape or sexual assault were turned over to the Honor Code office, even if BYU was not currently investigating the case.   

The BYU Police Department and the Utah Department of Public Safety have been locked in a battle over whether to decertify the campus police since 2019.

During an appeal hearing on Monday, Michael Hansen with the Utah Attorney General’s Office said former BYU Police Chief Larry Stott never conducted an internal affairs investigation into Lt. Rhoades, instead choosing to talk with the officer a few times. 

Hansen also accused BYU Police of not properly answering a subpoena when the Department of Public Safety started its investigation into the matter or answering public records requests.   

“What we have is a police department that doesn’t act like a police department,” Hansen said. 

But BYU Police’s attorney Jim Jardine disagreed, saying Chief Stott did do an investigation into Lt. Rhoades’s conduct. He also pointed out that the incident has been investigated three other times as well. 

Jardine also argued that even though Chief Stott believed Lt. Rhoades’ conduct was not criminal, he also moved him into a new position where he could not access records. 

During the very technical hearing, Jardine questioned whether the Department of Public Safety had followed the letter of the law when trying to decertify the department and whether the actions of one person should affect the whole organization. 

“This is an extreme and unprecedented remedy,” Jardine said. 

Hansen admitted that the Department of Public Safety declined to prosecute Lt. Rhoades, who has since retired from the force, because of the effect it could have on victims and the expense of a trial for misdemeanor crimes. 

Chief Stott stepped down in 2019. 

A decision on BYU Police’s certification is expected in the next few weeks. 

 

Related Links:

Investigators release more details into alleged BYU Police officer misconduct

BYU Police Department decertified by the state

BYU responds to Department of Public Safety decertification notice