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New revelations of police sexual harassment in the Lauren McCluskey case; protest planned

By Bryn Dayton |
May 21, 2020
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Salt Lake City, UT - More than a year and a half after Lauren McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah, was shot and killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend, revelations of police sexual harassment continue to be uncovered. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that an officer involved in the McCluskey case downloaded explicit photos of McCluskey to his personal cell phone, later showing them to a coworker. These photos had been provided to the University of Utah Police Department (UPD) as evidence after they were used to extort McCluskey for $1000. The officer in question is now working in the Logan City Police Department.

In response to this news, Nathan Kolher, a University of Utah student, made it clear what the path ahead must be. “I think that the police officers involved should be fired, and if they aren’t there is no safety for students on campus.”

SDS is planning a car protest for Saturday, May 23 at 11 a.m. outside university President Ruth Watkins’ house to demand #JusticeForLauren.

In the immediate aftermath of McCluskey’s death, the public was made aware of UPD’s blatant negligence, with McCluskey having followed reporting guidelines in every way possible but receiving inadequate assistance. Later, reports exposed the composition of the UPD, with many of the officers coming to the university from the West Valley Police Department after being fired for drunk driving and sexual harassment of coworkers.

Just this spring, the university announced that it would spend $13 million on a new police building. This new building is supposed to remedy the fact that in the current Public Safety Building, victims, including victims of sexual harassment and assault, were made to report their crimes in the public lobby of the police station.

Though the University of Utah Department of Public Safety denies that this new revelation is further proof of a problem of negligence and misogyny in the UPD, the mishandling of the McCluskey case has exposed the deep and systemic problems with police in this country. Not only are police officers and departments incompetent in providing the safety that they so often speak about, there is a culture of misogyny that further prevents them from protecting women against domestic abuse.

Available research shows that police officers are twice as likely to physically abuse their spouses compared to the general public, but society still expects women and other victims of sexual harm to report abuse to the police. Sexual assault is a problem everywhere, and it is even more prevalent on college campuses.

Students at the University of Utah were not satisfied with the university’s response, especially after they were told that the university wants to create an auxiliary police station inside the student union, requiring even more money. Now, after the latest news in the McCluskey case, students are angrier and will not be content with lukewarm statements on how the university values their safety. To student Hannah Wolfson, it is clear that students cannot rely on police protection.

“It just goes to show that our university and the police aren’t only grossly negligent, but that they actively contribute to the suffering of others,” Wolfson said.

Josh Memmott, a student at the University of Utah and a member of Student for a Democratic Society (SDS) think that “this is definitely a systemic problem.”

“This definitely means that this isn’t the first time; this has happened before,” Memmott said. “This means that this is a problem in the university and in SLC in general.”

SDS has fought for police accountability as part of their #CounselorsNotCops campaign this past year, and Memmott said that SDS will continue to fight for police accountability in the future.