Utah House passes bill to make campus police forces, like BYU’s, follow public records laws

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 12, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to require campus police organizations — including Brigham Young University — to follow the same public records rules as public police agencies.

SB197 states that law enforcement agencies run by Utah universities must comply if they are certified by the Commission of Public Safety.

SB297 already has been passed by the Senate, and now will go to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who either will reject it or sign it into law.


Last month, the Utah Department of Public Safety announced it has decertified BYU’s police force effective Sept. 1.

BYU officials said at the time of the announcement that they plan to appeal the decision well before the September deadline, and hope to retain the department’s state-certified status, which allows it to operate as a police force in Utah.

Jess Anderson, Utah Commissioner of Public Safety, sent a notice of the action, dated Feb. 20, according to information released by the Department of Public Safety. He sent it to BYU president Kevin Worthen.

The letter said in part that the BYUPD failed to comply with certification criteria in that, between 2016 and April 2018, it “failed to conduct investigation into specific allegations of misconduct by a BYUPD officer, and failed to report any findings found to be true to Peace Officer Standards and Training,” as required by Utah Code.

That code states that a “chief, sheriff or administrative officer of a law enforcement agency who is made aware of an allegation against a peace officer employed by that agency that involves conduct in violation of subsection 1 shall investigate the allegation and report to the division if it is found to be true.”

In addition, Anderson’s letter says, “BYUPD failed to comply with a subpoena … issued on June 28, 2018, pursuant … into an investigation of misconduct by a BYUPD officer, as required by (Utah code).”

To read Anderson’s full letter, and one sent earlier to the University Police Department, click here.

BYU officials argued that as a “privately funded, managed and operated police department within a private university,” it did not need to comply, according to a statement released at the time.

The statement also said that the GRAMA requests for information released to outside entities, in this case, The Salt Lake Tribune, apply to government records held by government entities.

The university is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At the time of the decertification announcement, BYU officials released the following statement:

“For nearly 40 years, BYU has protected its students and campus community, one of the largest concentrations of citizens in the state of Utah, through a state-certified police force called University Police. For the entire time, Utah statutes have recognized the police force that BYU established and have authorized its state-certified peace officers to keep the peace. During this time, BYU has borne the financial burden of paying for these law enforcement officials.

“BYU received word yesterday that the Utah Commissioner of Public Safety has issued a notice of agency action to decertify University Police as a state-certified police force. This action is not immediate and allows for an appeal, which BYU is already in the process of preparing.

“BYU finds this decision confounding and disagrees with grounds for seeking decertification. The Department of Public Safety believes that University Police failed to meet criteria for an internal investigation. BYU, however, believes that University Police met all applicable criteria, and is surprised that the commissioner is issuing a letter on these technical grounds.

“BYU plans to file a responsive pleading and demonstrate in a hearing how University Police has complied with these certification criteria. BYU continues to believe that the best way to serve its students and protect BYU’s campus without putting a disproportionate fiscal burden on Provo’s taxpayers is to have comprehensive police protection through Provo City and University Police.

“Experience shows that allowing University Police to continue operating as a state-certified police force is the proven means of protecting the BYU campus community. BYU intends to pursue all available agency action and legal processes to remain in a position of keep students safe.”


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