The officer who mishandled Lauren McCluskey’s concerns — including her calls for help hours before she was killed on campus — has resigned from the University of Utah’s police department.
Miguel Deras, who had worked at the U. for four years, turned in his badge last week. He has been hired to work as an officer at the Logan police department in northern Utah, the chief there confirmed Tuesday.
U. Deputy Chief Rick McLenon said Deras’s departure from the university was voluntary but beyond that said only that he wishes him “luck in his future endeavors.”
The officer’s resignation comes after he was disciplined earlier this year for his inappropriate response to a domestic violence call. Though Deras had previously come under fire for failings in McCluskey’s case, U. President Ruth Watkins had insisted that no individual officers would be punished for how they handled the student-athlete’s concerns before she was murdered last fall by the man she had been trying to report.
The president held to that. But Watkins promised a new “zero tolerance policy” moving forward. Deras was written up for breaking that, though he remained on staff. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
McCluskey’s parents have criticized how police dismissed their daughter’s reports of harassment for weeks up until her slaying and called for staff discipline — including Deras’s termination. On Tuesday, they called his departure “a positive step.”
“He was one of the officers who tragically failed Lauren,” said Jill McCluskey. “He gave her his personal cell phone and talked with her frequently but did nothing to help her. Deras was part of the culture that needs to change at the university campus police for women to be safer on campus.”
The family is currently suing the U. for $56 million.
Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen, though, defended hiring Deras and said the officer started his job on Sunday with two days of domestic violence training. Jensen noted that had nothing to do with the officer’s experience at the U. and added: “I hire people every day.”
Before joining the U.'s force, Deras had previously worked at the Logan department as an animal control officer, Jensen said. His brother is also currently an officer there.
“We’ve done what we can do to make sure that Miguel is prepared to be successful," Jensen said. “We’re committed to him as a new employee.”
As for being written up for poor performance at the U., Jensen said: “He did nothing egregiously wrong.”
Shortly after McCluskey’s case, Deras and the entire University of Utah Police Department went through training to better recognize warning signs he and others had missed. And all officers were told to respond with urgency to any serious fears reported by women on campus.
That did not happen in February when Deras went out on a call to talk to a woman and provide her information about how to report assault by a partner. When he arrived, the suspect was there, too.
Deras let that man stay as he interviewed the concerned woman. That is against policy. Additionally, he did not call for backup, which the police department requires for cases involving fights or abuse between partners when both parties are present.
He did not check if the man was on parole even after the man “attempted to call his parole agent in your presence,” his discipline letter stated, noting that he put the woman in danger.
Deras accepted the warning without appeal, and it was placed in his file. His lieutenant noted: “Your improvement must be immediate and sustained or I will take further disciplinary action up to and including the termination of your employment.”
Those issues mirror the missteps Deras made in responding to McCluskey.
McCluskey had briefly dated Melvin S. Rowland but ended their relationship Oct. 9 after discovering that he had lied to her about his age and criminal history. On Oct. 22, Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender who was on parole, shot the 21-year-old track athlete outside her campus dorm. He died by suicide hours later.
McCluskey’s early concerns were not taken seriously by campus police, investigators later found in reviewing the department. Officers, including Deras, did not recognize warning signs of potential relationship violence, they said.
McCluskey had called Deras, too, the morning she was killed. She told him she had received an email from someone impersonating a police deputy chief but whom she believed was Rowland. Deras didn’t relay her complaints to anyone else in the department.
Deras also never learned that Rowland was on parole; some of McCluskey’s earliest allegations could have sent him back to prison for violations of his terms of release. It was one of the biggest missteps pointed out in an independent review of how the university handled the case.
A detective in the department, Kayla Dallof, was fired for allegedly also mishandling a domestic violence case similar to Deras where a 17-year-old girl was threatened by a U. student. Like Deras, Dallof had also mishandled McCluskey’s concerns.
Some had questioned why she was terminated, though, while Deras was allowed to remain on the force. Watkins declined to respond. And Dallof has since been hired by the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.
At the U., Deras was making $22.67 an hour. He was hired in September 2015.
Utah’s police regulators, Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), would investigate the officer only if he were accused of committing a crime or violating the state’s rules for police. Otherwise, he was free to seek employment at another police force; he has an active certification and does not have any open investigations with POST.