SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Board of Higher Education will soon consider requiring implicit bias and de-escalation training for all public safety officers at Utah's public colleges and universities.
The requirement for both types of training would become part of Utah System of Higher Education policy, under a recommendation approved by members of two higher education board committees on Friday. The policy change will be considered by the full board at an upcoming meeting.
In 2020, Utah lawmakers passed SB80, which required the higher education board to study and make recommendations for providing public safety services on state-supported college and university campuses by November 2021.
As part of that process, higher education officials hired the Cicero Group consulting firm to conduct a baseline analysis of public safety organization, policies, relationships and processes at each of Utah's 16 public technical colleges and degree-granting institutions.
The report found that "campus police meet training requirements, but completion does not necessarily equate to effectiveness and discretion lends itself to inconsistencies" in training among institutions.
The report pointed to budget restraints affecting the types of training provided, especially for rural institutions that need to travel to Salt Lake City or out of state.
"While some training is common across all institutions (firearms), more specialized training (racism and bias) is desired, but with the recognition that more training time equates to less time in the field with students," the report states.
Dixie State University Police Chief Blair Barfuss said since the Cicero Group report was released, a group of campus police chiefs has worked on "immediate actionable items that we could address" such as training.
Barfuss said Utah's university police departments use Lexipol, which is a private company that develops policy and procedure manuals and offers consulting services to law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other public safety departments nationwide.
"Well they've expanded and provide this training platform for the low cost of $58 per officer and after a year, they provide unlimited resources which allow us to train our officers at a very efficient price point and it meets what you're looking for with implicit bias, emotional intelligence" and other training, he said.
The company provides online training modules for a wide array of topics but there would also be the flexibility to create training specific to Utah's higher education institutions' needs, Barfuss said.
"Utah is a continuing education, certified state meaning that we can accept this training platform for continuing education credits every police officer needs for a year," he said, explaining that Utah requires officers to undergo 40 hours of training each year.
"We're in discussions to see if we can get the primary POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) accreditation piece, because most of these courses are approved at a POST-level by multiple states," he said.
SB80 built upon requirements implemented in SB134, which was passed during the 2019 legislative session following the on-campus slaying of University of Utah student athlete Lauren McCluskey in 2018 by a former acquaintance.
SB134 required campus safety plans and campus safety training curriculum.