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Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office will not prosecute U. police chief

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has decided not to prosecute University of Utah police chief Rodney Chatman. (PHOTO: Rodney Chatman, credit University of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah police chief will not be prosecuted by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, concluding insufficient evidence that Rodney Chatman attempted to impersonate a peace officer. 

Investigation by D.A.’s Office into police chief wraps-up

An investigation into Chatman was initially launched following claims that he wore a badge and gun before being certified as a law enforcement officer in the state.

In a letter to the University of Utah’s Office of General Counsel, they explained Police Chief Rodney Chatman met the state definition of a “Peace Officer” when he became chief of the University’s police department.

Utah defines a “Peace Officer” as some who is an employee of a law enforcement agency; and whose primary and principal duties consist of the prevention and detection of crime and the enforcement of criminal statutes or ordinances of this state or any of its political subdivisions.” 

Under Utah safety code, in order to violate the standards, Chatman would have had to act with the intention of impersonating a peace officer, which the DA’s office did not conclude.

“On several occasions, Chief Chatman refrained from engaging in actions in a manner that could have caused others to believe he was a certified law enforcement officer,” the letter reads. “Because Chief Chatman is a peace officer as the chief of police of the University of Utah’s Police Department and due to the absence of any evidence to reflect Chief Chatman acted with the necessary intent to impersonate a peace officer, insufficient evidence exists to support the filing of charges against Chief Chatman.”

In other words, there wasn’t enough evidence discovered throughout the DA’s investigation to warrant prosecuting Chatman for imitating a peace officer. The DA also notes “on several occasions” Chatman abstained from engaging in certified police activity to ensure others would not perceive him as one. 

Additionally, the letter from the DA states the University knew Chatman was not a certified law enforcement officer in Utah prior to him assuming responsibilities as chief. To the DA’s office, this was widely known among the University Police Department. Despite being asked to resume police chief duties, the letter notes “the University made clear” Chatman was not to “exercise police authority” until he was a certified officer in the state. 

Chief Chatman tied to University of Kansas job

Earlier this month, Chatman was identified by the University of Kansas as the third and final candidate to be their next chief of police and director of public safety. He was set to take part in campus interviews on June 4.

Chatman was initially hired by the University of Utah to be the police chief in January 2020 and he assumed duties on February 17.

Prior to taking the position, he served as executive director of public safety and chief of police at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

He was eventually placed on leave, due to the investigation, this past December.

Shortly after Chatman was placed on leave, Marlon Lynch, the Chief Safety Officer at the University of Utah left the university to accept a similar position at Michigan State University.

Following Chatman’s resignation, he and four former University of Utah officers filed a lawsuit against the University, claiming they were used as a scapegoat after the murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey.