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University of Utah police chief resigns, will take job at Brown University

University of Utah Police Chief Rodney Chatman is leaving his post to take a top law enforcement job at Brown University in Rhode Island, the Ivy League school announced Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

University of Utah Police Chief Rodney Chatman is leaving his post to take a top law enforcement job at Brown University in Rhode Island, the Ivy League school announced Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (University of Utah)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah police chief who says the school retaliated against him for trying to publicly address missteps in the case of slain student Lauren McCluskey is leaving the post.

Rodney Chatman is taking a similar job at Rhode Island's Brown University. The Ivy League school announced Tuesday that Chatman will be its new vice president for campus safety.

His formal departure from the U. marks the latest chapter in turnover at top levels of the university. It follows the resignations of its president and its chief safety officer, a job created in response to the death of Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old communications major and track athlete.

Chatman, who took over the U.'s embattled police department in the wake of McCluskey's 2018 murder, ordered a new investigation into the case that resulted in the firing of multiple officers.

He was placed on administrative leave since December.

He has said his job was threatened after he came up with a plan to inform students and employees about mistakes in the case, even though he was hired in part to correct those issues. McCluskey had reported being extorted and harassed by a man she had dated before he killed her on campus in October 2018.

The University of Utah will wait to replace Chatman until a new university president is named, a development that's expected to happen early next month, said university spokesman Chris Nelson. He declined the opportunity to further comment about Chatman's allegations or resignation.

Chatman had ordered a new review into how officers handled McCluskey's case before after he said an earlier investigation "whitewashed" the officers' actions.

The new probe concluded that former officer Miguel Deras shared explicit photos of McCluskey with other officers.

The report led to the firing of two campus officers, and a supervisor quit. It also resulted in Deras' firing from his new job at the Logan Police Department.

Chatman alleged an attorney who has long represented police raised criminal allegations against him in retaliation for the review, filing a complaint with the Utah Attorney General's Office in August.

The complaint raised claims that Chatman improperly wore a badge and carried a gun before becoming a certified officer. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office ultimately said it found no evidence of misconduct and declined to file criminal charges.

Chatman told administrators at Brown about the probe while interviewing for the new job, the university's news release says.

"Communities don't want policing done to them," Chatman said in the release. "They want campus safety initiatives developed in partnership with them. The recognition at Brown that safety is more complex than policing and that success in ensuring well-being takes authentic engagement across the community made it clear that joining Brown was the ideal opportunity for me."

Attorney Jeremy Jones, who lodged the complaint on behalf of the Utah chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, has said the union wasn't seeking to punish Chatman. Its main allegation was that the university improperly released disciplinary reports tied to the investigation Chatman had ordered, while the badge and gun allegations were secondary, he told in June.

Jason Hinojosa remains acting chief of police at the U. Keith Squires is interim chief safety officer after Marlon Lynch left the job to take a similar one at his alma mater, Michigan State University.

Former University of Utah President Ruth Watkins stepped down earlier this year to lead a national nonprofit organization focused on education.

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