SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate passed a bill Monday intended to force the recently decertified BYU Police Department to follow the same open records rules that all other law enforcement agencies are subject to in Utah.
SB197, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, was sent to the House on a 26-0 vote. Bramble has said the bill is the "result of the ongoing litigation between BYU and the media" related to the Government Records Access and Management Act.
The bill spells out that the state's definition of a law enforcement agency includes "a private institution of higher education whose law enforcement entity or division is certified by the Commission of Public Safety."
Last month, the BYU Police Department was decertified by the state beginning on Sept. 1. Utah Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson cited issues including failure "to conduct an internal investigation into specific allegations of misconduct by a BYU" police officer.
The issues stem from a records request made under the act by the Salt Lake Tribune for emails sent by BYU police regarding rape allegations made by a 19-year-old student in 2016.24 comments on this story
BYU declined to release information from what it termed a "privately funded, managed and operated police department within a private university" and is appealing a lower court ruling to the Utah Supreme Court.
University attorneys said GRAMA was not intended "to allow access to private records of private institutions such as BYU, or internal departments of private institutions, such as university police."
Yet last week, BYU's police chief and its general counsel urged support of the bill.
The university's police department remains active until a deadline of Sept. 1 while BYU appeals the decertification decision.