SALT LAKE CITY — The House of Representatives joined the Senate on Tuesday by passing unanimously a bill that requires campus police organizations — including the department at BYU — to follow the same public records rules as all other public police agencies.
SB197 states that the 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."
“We are applying the exact same standard to our private law enforcement agencies that we have (for) our public,” said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, the House sponsor of the bill.
Last month, the BYU Police Department was decertifiedby 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 Government Records Access and Management Act by the Salt Lake Tribune for emails sent by BYU police regarding rape allegations made by a 19-year-old student in 2016.7 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.
The university's police department remains active until a deadline of Sept. 1 while BYU appeals the decertification decision.
SB197 passed the Senate March 4 with a unanimous vote and will now go to the governor.
In the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee meeting on March 6, BYU counsel Heather Gunnarson and BYU Police Chief Chris Autry offered support for the bill.