Judge rules against BYU police decertification

A BYU police car sits outside the Jesse Knight Building, which houses the main office for the University Police. An administrative judge ruled Tuesday that Brigham Young University’s police force will not be decertified. (David Scott)

BYU’s police force will not be decertified, an administrative judge ruled Jan. 5. 

This decision follows a two-year case from the Utah Department of Public Safety against the University Police. Allegations were made in February 2019 involving an inappropriate access of police records made by former Lt. Aaron Rhoades and a subsequent improper investigation from BYU.

Judge Richard Catten dismissed the case, ruling that the University Police fulfilled the minimum requirements of an investigation and complied whenever possible. This was surprising given Catten’s previously expressed inclination to rule against BYU.

Catten acknowledged the Department of Public Safety’s concerns and discussed a difference in expectations between the two parties. Catten said the University Police hired attorneys and asked for a state investigation while the department expected the case to be turned over to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.

“The inadequacy of the statutes and rules have unfairly affected both parties in this case,” Catten said in the ruling on Tuesday. “BYUPD operates under a set of criteria that is certainly less than crystal clear and can leave them with doubt as to what actions are appropriate and required in certain circumstances.”

The Salt Lake Tribune referenced a statement released by BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins Tuesday evening saying the judge “made the correct conclusion” in the case against BYU. The university previously cited a statement from the Utah Attorney General’s office saying, “We are satisfied that the structure that allowed this to happen has been remedied.”

Department of Public Safety commissioner Jess Anderson said BYU’s non-compliance “erodes all integrity.”

Anderson said the ruling can still instigate “an important change for the BYU community” and prompted state lawmakers “to revisit the relevant statutes and provide additional guidance about these processes.”

The Department of Public Safety will decide whether to appeal Catten’s decision within the month.

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