The Salt Lake Tribune has obtained records from the University of Utah that show one of the police officers accused of mishandling the Lauren McCluskey case was disciplined about four months following her murder for his mistakes in another domestic violence case.
McCluskey, a track athlete, was murdered last year by a man she had recently broken up with, following days of her reaching out to university officials, campus police, and city police for help because she sensed that she was in danger. Among the mistakes made by police leading up to McCluskey’s homicide was that no officers took the steps to learn that Melvin Rowland, 37, was on parole, as well as a general lack of urgency toward the many warning signs that McCluskey was documenting.
According to the documents, detailed Monday by Tribune reporter Courtney Tanner, the mistakes that officer Miguel Deras made sound similar to mistakes made by law enforcement leading up to McCluskey’s murder. Deras was one of the officers who worked with McCluskey when she reported her fears to police; he’s included in the group of people being sued by McCluskey’s parents for “deliberate indifference.” In the lawsuit, Deras is mentioned as being among the officers present when McCluskey and a close friend went to police to ask for help, but the women were never taken to a private room to talk and the officers were described as “demonstrating a complete disregard for the seriousness of the situation.”
Later in the lawsuit, Deras is named as an officer that McCluskey reached out to when someone—she suspected Rowland—sent her text messages that claimed to be the university’s deputy police chief needing her at the station. Per the lawsuit, this is how Deras and a detective responded:
Lauren called UUPS to speak with Officer Deras. She left messages three times over a two-hour period until he finally called her back and she forwarded a screen shot of the text message via email to Detective Dallof. Officer Deras identified the text message as a fake and told Lauren not to respond, but UUPS otherwise did not investigate the matter and took no action in response to this violent felon and sex offender’s attempts to lure Lauren away from her dormatory [sic] by impersonating a police officer.
According to the written warning notice, dated March 29, Deras was assigned in February to a case of possible domestic violence. Per the memo, Deras was assigned to meet with a woman and give her a domestic violence packet. The department had been contacted by a supervisor, who asked for help for an employee “as he was concerned for her safety.” Deras met with the woman. Shortly afterward the woman’s boyfriend, who is described in the memo as a “possible subject in the matter,” arrived.
At this point, Deras was supposed to call for backup so that he could speak with the woman privately while a second officer monitored the boyfriend. According to the memo, Deras did not.
The second issue was that Deras never noted in his own report if he ran the man through an offender management database known as “O Track.” And, per the memo, Deras knew the man was on parole.
The memo ended by saying that Deras was supposed to make note of the mistakes, act on the policy going forward, and schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss his progress by April 20. The memo did not say if that follow-up meeting happened.
The Tribune said it got the memo by requesting “files of staff discipline related to McCluskey’s reports.” As part of the response, the newspaper also got two letters praising university officials for their actions after McCluskey’s murder.
The Tribune said that it could not reach the officer for comment. A university spokesman did speak, saying “the expectation is that the employee does better the next time.” McCluskey’s mother, Jill, told the newspaper that the documents show “hows that the culture has not changed.”
The documents, as obtained by the Tribune, are below.