Review of McCluskey Domestic Violence Case Uncovers Missteps by Campus Police

Understaffing, lack of domestic violence training are just some of the issues that led to Lauren McCluskey’s murder by her ex-boyfriend.

Review of McCluskey Domestic Violence Case Uncovers Missteps by Campus Police

McCluskey, 21, was fatally shot Oct. 22 outside her dorm by Melvin Rowland, 37, after she dated him briefly. Photo iStock

An independent review of the murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey has found that campus police (UUPS) were understaffed and not properly trained in handling domestic violence cases, which led to her death.

McCluskey, 21, was fatally shot Oct. 22 outside her dorm by Melvin Rowland, 37, after she dated him briefly. She broke up with him after she found out he had a criminal record and had lied about his age. Rowland was a registered sex offender who had been released from prison months before, reports WSBTV. After murdering McCluskey, Rowland died by suicide.

The victim had reported to police that she was being blackmailed by Rowland and was afraid of him. Just days before her death, McCluskey called Salt Lake City Police dispatch, asking why police weren’t doing anything, reports the Daily News.

“I’m worried because I’ve been working with the campus police at the U, and last Saturday I reported and I haven’t gotten an update,” she told the 911 dispatcher.

McCluskey Case Review Findings

Results of the review were released Dec. 19 during a press conference. Several issues were uncovered, including:

  1. Campus police never attempted to check Rowland’s offender status, and there were no policies or procedures that required such checks. A criminal history was obtained but failed to include the fact that Rowland was on parole. “We, therefore, recommend that this omission be corrected by requiring an ‘offender information check’ in every criminal case excepting the most routine police contacts.”
  2. Existing systems to flag offender status when an officer runs a driver’s license check failed to work properly. “We recommend that the University request the Department of Corrections determine why the system failed.”
  3. UUPS needs more patrol officers, as well as officers trained in handling domestic violence cases, including reports of harassment, stalking and other forms of interpersonal violence. “We recommend that UUPS undertake a resource study to determine its needs and that priority be given to hiring detectives trained in domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence.”
  4. UUPS doesn’t have a working relationship with the school’s wellness center and its victim advocates. “We recommend coordination efforts be implemented. We also recommend that UUPS consider employing one or more ‘in-house’ advocates to assist officers in their investigations.”
  5. “We recommend that UUPS needs to implement an effective training program dealing with interpersonal violence. Especially important is the need to incorporate the ‘Lethality Assessment Program’ that is used in many police agencies around the State.”
  6. Most campus police contacts with the victim were by phone or email. “Except in the most routine matters, personal, face-to-fact contact and interviews were individuals reporting concerns regarding interpersonal violence should be standard procedure.”
  7. An important email was sent to McCluskey, but she was murdered before she could read it. “UUPS should adopt and implement policies to ensure that sensitive email and voice mail communications are handled in a timely manner.”

Other Recommendations on Handling Domestic Violence Cases

The committee also made the following recommendations regarding housing and residential education:

  1. “Institutional structures at Housing prevented an early attempt to intervene when Lauren’s friends reported that they believed she was in an unhealthy relationship. The information was passed up the chain of command, but decisions and responses were delayed. We recommend that processes be implemented to more expeditiously respond to student issues.”
  2. The Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) was never engaged nor were any of the issue reported to the BIT coordinator.
  3. “There was a report by Lauren’s friends that Rowland was considering bringing a firearm on campus to give to Lauren. This information was never communicated to UUPS or reported to BIT. We recommend policies be clarified or implemented to facilitate reports of firearms on campus to UUPS. Among other things, this would have allowed Rowland’s possession of a firearm in violation of his parole to be reported. UUPS needed to know this information.”
  4. “There was no investigation into reports by Lauren’s friends that Rowland was violating housing policy and had easy access to the housing unit. We recommend that policies be clarified or implemented to ensure appropriate oversight.”
  5. “CSW victim advocates were not engaged to lend their advice and expertise when the information supplied by Lauren’s friends became known. We recommend policies or procedures be implemented to engage victim advocates when concerns of potential interpersonal violence are raised with Housing representatives.”

Other recommendations include evaluating UUPS and the school’s Housing and Residential Education department’s records management systems to determine if they can make improvements and improving communication between on- and off-campus entities, reports ABC4.

The full report can be found here.

The university will also be adding online educational courses for students.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ