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SALT LAKE CITY — The head of the University of Utah's embattled police department will retire in the fall, the university announced Tuesday.
Chief Dale Brophy's last day with the department will be Oct. 15. Brophy has been police chief and director of the university's Department of Public Safety since 2015.
"This has not been an easy decision, but the timing is right," Brophy said in a statement. "This move will open a new chapter for me and provide the department an opportunity to continue forward under new leadership."
Brophy joined the Department of Public Safety in 2013 as deputy chief of police. He led the U. police at the time of student Lauren McCluskey's killing in October 2018, standing as the public face of the department amid criticism in the aftermath of the on-campus shooting. The department faced sharp scrutiny for its handling of the case, especially in the days and weeks leading up to McCluskey's death on Oct. 22.
McCluskey's parents filed a $56 million lawsuit against the university last month, alleging campus police ignored McCluskey's repeated reports of stalking, intimidation, dating violence and other behavior prohibited under Title IX before she was killed by her former boyfriend, 37-year-old Melvin Shawn Rowland.
The 21-year-old student athlete was shot and killed near her dorm by Rowland, a convicted sex offender who was on the Utah Sex Offender Registry. McCluskey's parents have criticized university police for not conducting a full background check on Rowland, who had served time in the Utah State Prison and was on parole at the time of the killing.
An investigation into the university's handling of the case by a three-person law enforcement panel determined the police department was understaffed and failed to check whether Rowland was under the supervision of the Division of Adult Probation and Parole. The report also included recommendations for how the department could better handle domestic violence cases, such as requiring that interviews in such cases be conducted in person. Most of the interactions between officers and McCluskey took place over text, email and phone calls.
The panel made a number of other recommendations for the university to fix systematic problems, but ultimately said they could not say whether McCluskey's death could have been prevented. Sixteen of the 30 recommendations made in the report involved the university police department.
In February, Brophy attributed some of the problems named in the report to a lack of communication between university departments.
"Some of those larger issues were our systems weren’t talking to each other," Brophy said. "We’ve fixed that and that’s no longer an issue for us."
After McCluskey's death, the university approved the hiring of six new people in the police department, including a victim advocate and a detective assigned to domestic violence. The police department also received training in handling domestic violence cases, and Brophy said in February that his department had improved communications with Adult Probation and Parole.
University spokesman Chris Nelson, echoing Brophy's statement, said that "the timing" was right for the police chief "to start a new chapter."
"It allows the university to do a national search for his replacement and move forward with a lot of safety improvements we've made on campus over the past year," Nelson said.
In a tweet Tuesday, McCluskey's mother, Jill McCluskey, who has been deeply critical of the university's response to her daughter's reports and reaction to her death, described Brophy's retirement as "a step in the right direction."
McCluskey's tweet claimed the "culture" of the university's police department "was unprofessional and disrespectful to women. Since Lauren lived on campus, they were the only police to whom she could go."
Before joining the university's public safety department, Brophy served as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant and lieutenant with the West Valley City Police Department.