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State investigating how BYU police access, share other agencies’ sexual assault files

First Published      Last Updated Jan 23 2017 08:31 pm

Documents » In at least one case, a campus police officer accessed another department’s sex-crime files for the Honor Code Office, records show.

The Utah Department of Public Safety is investigating Brigham Young University's police department and how it accesses and shares its own police reports and the records of other Utah County police agencies.

Since students began coming forward this spring, alleging they were investigated by BYU's Honor Code Office after reporting sexual assaults, campus police repeatedly have stressed that they are separate from that office and do not report conduct violations to the school.

However, The Salt Lake Tribune has obtained BYU documents that show that a BYU police lieutenant accessed a countywide database of police records to collect information from another department for an Honor Code investigation in at least one case: the school's probe of Madi Barney, who has called for changes in how BYU handles sexual-assault reports.

DPS said Wednesday that its Bureau of Investigation will "review information access and dissemination issues including any possible violations related to the sexual assault reporting situation at BYU made public last spring," according to a written statement.

The investigation was requested by BYU and Provo police departments, according to DPS and the agencies.

Marissa Villasenor, public relations director for DPS, said BYU police Chief Larry Stott asked for the probe, but added there is not a specific case or allegation driving it.

"We're trying to find out, is there a reporting situation?" she said. "Are reports being handled correctly? Is everything being handled appropriately when information comes in? Where is it going?"

Villasenor said investigators will examine not only how BYU police files are shared, but also what happens when campus officers access reports from other Utah County agencies — including police departments in Orem and Provo, and the Utah County Sheriff's Office — and whether those reports are shared with others.

Provo police Sgt. Brian Taylor said his department also sought the review of campus police.

"We are required by law, as any police agency, to safeguard sensitive reports during investigations," he said. "So when we learned that our reports were the subject matter of Honor Code investigations, we referred that to DPS."

BYU police Lt. Steven Messick said the department wants to ensure it is following state policies. "We just want to make sure we are acting the way that we should," he said.

Utah County agencies have access to one another's police files because they use the same software company, Spillman, to file cases and book evidence.

Police officers must have a legitimate law enforcement purpose when accessing the multiagency system, according to Taylor. An officer needs a login and password to enter the system, Taylor said, and a detailed log is made every time an officer accesses a report.

The Tribune filed several public records requests on May 25, asking for logs showing when BYU police accessed sexual-assault-investigation reports from Provo, Orem and the sheriff's office. All three departments have denied the requests, citing the DPS investigation.

The investigation was opened May 26, according to the denials. Villasenor said the timing of the investigation is unrelated to The Tribune's records requests.

Barney in September told Provo police that Orem resident Nasiru Seidu raped her during a date in her off-campus apartment. After Seidu was charged with first-degree-felony rape, he gave a copy of the detailed rape report to a Utah County sheriff's deputy, who took it to BYU.

But BYU documents, obtained by The Tribune and verified by Provo police, show BYU police already had used the Spillman database to access those Provo police records — apparently at the behest of the Honor Code Office — before Deputy Edwin Randolph brought the file to the school.

According to reports by an Honor Code investigator, or "counselor," Randolph had called the Honor Code Office on Nov. 20, three days before he delivered Barney's file. The counselor wrote down numerous allegations Randolph made against Barney during that call.

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