SALT LAKE CITY — A University of Utah police officer who was assigned to the Lauren McCluskey case has been disciplined for failing to follow proper procedures in a separate domestic violence case, even after the fallout from the student-athlete's murder.
In a letter written March 29 to officer Miguel Deras from University of Utah Police Lt. Brian Wahlin, Deras is told: "You are not meeting the expectations of your position," according to a copy of the letter obtained through a public records request.
Specifically, the letter states that while responding to a recent domestic violence incident, Deras did not conduct a proper background check on a subject, and failed to call for backup.
On Feb. 13, while delivering a domestic violence packet to a woman, her boyfriend — "the possible suspect" — also arrived, the letter states.
"At no time during this visit did you call for a backup officer to assist. You conducted all interviews alone and in the presence of both persons involved," the letter states.
Deras' lieutenant further reminded him that according to new policies the department enacted two months ago, "This policy specifically states that every effort should be made to conduct interviews in private," the letter says, while noting this cannot be done without a backup officer present.
The officer then learned that the boyfriend was on parole. The boyfriend called his parole agent while the officer was present. But the officer did not do a background check himself to check his parole status.
"You should have called this into dispatch to run while you were still with the possible suspect," the letter states.
Deras' discipline only included a written letter in his file.
The action comes on the heels of the high-profile murder of McCluskey, who was killed by a man she had dated who was on parole. An independent review of how the university handled the McCluskey case found numerous errors made by police — including not conducting a background check on Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, a convicted sex offender who was on the Utah Sex Offender Registry at the time of the killing — and not returning numerous calls made by McCluskey in a timely manner.
In response, the school announced it would be implementing 30 changes around campus to improve the safety of students and better address domestic violence issues. University of Utah President Ruth Watkins declined to discipline anyone for the McCluskey investigation, however, saying it was impossible to say whether the measures would have prevented her killing.
"I do not believe it serves the ultimate mission of enhancing campus safety to fire anyone who acted in good faith and is capable and deeply committed to doing better. At the same time, I fully expect accountability and compliance with these actions moving forward,” she said at the time.
Since those comments, Matt and Jill McCluskey, Lauren's parents, have been highly critical of how their daughter's case was handled and of Watkins' response.
On June 27, the McCluskeys filed a $56 million dollar against the university saying it has not taken responsibility for the death of their daughter and the lawsuit is a last resort to make the campus safer.5 comments on this story
The McCluskeys, of Pullman, Washington, said that any money gained from the lawsuit will be placed in the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, a nonprofit organization that honors their daughter’s legacy by supporting charitable work that promotes campus safety, amateur athletics and animal welfare.
In addition to the university, defendants named in the lawsuit are the U. Department of Housing and Residential Education, the U. Department of Public Safety, Chief Dale Brophy, Sgt. Kory Newbold, detective Kayla Dallof, officer Deras, and U. housing employees Todd Justensen, Heather McCarthy and Emily Thompson.
In March, the university confirmed that Dallof had left the department but declined to say if she was fired or quit.