Judge dismisses former University of Utah Police Chief’s claims for retaliation

The case was the latest of the remaining legal claims related to the 2018 murder of Lauren McCluskey, which exposed failings at the U.

(Courtesy Brown University) Pictured is Rodney Chatman, former University of Utah Police Commissioner. After leaving the position, Chatman sued the U. for discrimination and retaliation; A judge dismissed the case on Wednesday, August 9, 2023.

A judge has dismissed the lawsuit of the former University of Utah police chief, who said he faced retaliation after trying to reform the troubled department.

Rodney Chatman’s case was dismissed after a lengthy trial that stretched over two years since his departure — longer than he had been in his position at the U., which was originally discontinued following the killing of student athlete Lauren McCluskey.

In an Aug. 9 decision, Judge Elizabeth A. Hruby-Mills found that Chatman had not provided sufficient evidence to support his allegations of US discrimination and retaliation. She entered summary judgment — a decision that settles claims without a trial — in favor of the university.

This effectively ends Chatman’s high-profile lawsuit and the last legal claim that arose as a result of McCluskey’s death in the fall of 2018, which exposed wide-ranging US failures.

The police chief that Chatman replaced, Dale Brophy, also once filed a notice intending to sue the school for damage to its reputation, but never filed a lawsuit. Brophy had retired following criticism of how his department had dealt with concerns raised by McCluskey before she was killed by a man she briefly dated.

Miguel Deras, the officer who showed nude photos of McCluskey to other employees in the office, wanted to file a complaint with Brophy but got nowhere either. He was fired after a state investigation confirmed that the Salt Lake Tribune reported on his conduct. The time limit within which they can sue under Utah law has expired.

Chatman was hired and took over the embattled division in February 2020.

Almost immediately, he said, the United States tried to force him out because of his transparency. He said he was trying to uncover other alleged safety issues, including his belief that sexual assaults went unreported. He said administrators dismissed these issues every time he raised them and blocked his attempts to make meaningful changes.

The school suspended Chatman less than a year after he began investigating allegations that he carried a gun and wore his duty badge before he was a certified officer in Utah. He said the United States used these investigations to shame and silence him.

After he was acquitted of wrongdoing, the school did not accept him again.

Chatman had requested $2.5 million for violating his contract and the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act.

Now that the case has been dismissed, his attorney, Kathleen McConkie, said Chatman is considering whether or not to appeal.

“He was quite disappointed” with the judge’s decision, she said. “They say they don’t believe he’s a whistleblower. It’s unfortunate.”

The judge said Chatman never provided actual information that the United States violated sexual assault reporting requirements and said the principal made a “speculative” comment just a few weeks into his tenure that he based on early observations assume that the school did not comply with this. That doesn’t offer him protection for “protected reporting,” she concluded.

Since then, Chatman has accepted a position at Brown University, the Ivy League school in Rhode Island, where he holds a higher degree than at the U.

The University of Utah declined to comment on the judge’s ruling.

The US reorganized its department again. Instead of a police chief, Scott Carver was hired as the deputy chief safety officer for the police services.

Justin Scaccy

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