Utah Legislature considers bill directed at BYU police

SB191 sets regulations on law enforcement agencies in private higher education institutions. This bill applies directly to BYU as the only private university with a police force in Utah. (Preston Crawley)

The Utah Legislature is considering a bill that establishes regulations and authority given to law enforcement agencies in private schools.

According to sponsor Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, SB191 applies directly to BYU because it’s the only private institution in Utah with a police agency.

The bill establishes a certification process for private police agencies and describes policy and procedure requirements. It also establishes due process procedures for taking formal action against a private law enforcement agency.

Bramble said this legislation is necessary after a case nearly decertified BYU police. The Utah Department of Public Safety threatened to decertify University Police on allegations of improper investigations and the sharing of police records by former Lt. Aaron Rhoades. Judge Richard Catten dismissed the case in January, indicating that the statute was too ambiguous as to how complaints and investigations should be conducted.

BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead said BYU is working on the bill with lawmakers and the Department of Public Safety to give clarity to the regulations on its police force.

“We’ve said all along that the best way to keep students safe on a college campus is with a dedicated, on-campus, state-certified police force, and this legislation confirms that the Utah Legislature agrees with that approach,” he said.

Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson told The Daily Universe he was consulted about the bill. He said it establishes necessary trust in those who hold power to arrest and use force. “That’s a big deal, and I don’t take that lightly.”

“This is a great opportunity for us to be able to move the police department along in an effort to establish accountability, transparency and establish public trust,” he said.

Bramble also said this bill provides accountability to BYU’s private police agency. “I think BYU and the Department of Public Safety have both come forward in good faith, and we’re putting forward a bill that provides the framework for BYU police to work with the Department of Public Safety.”

The bill passed through the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Feb. 17 and will go to the floor of the Senate for consideration at a later date.

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