The University of Utah police department built by former Chief Dale Brophy included leaders disciplined in previous jobs
(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy speaks at a news conference in October 2017.
After Dale Brophy
started leading the University of Utah’s police staff in 2013 — first as deputy chief and two years later as chief — much of the department of about 130 officers, security guards and other employees turned over. Roughly 80 employees left; about a third of them were women and most were officers and dispatchers.
As Brophy hired their replacements, he built up the department
with former coworkers from West Valley City police and, in one case, his son-in-law. With at least 11 employees from West Valley, the department was nicknamed “West Valley East” or “Little West Valley.”
Additionally, many of the people he hired for leadership positions had been disciplined at their previous agencies.
• The chief’s first pick was Rick McLenon, who is now the interim chief of the department.
McLenon, who worked with Brophy in West Valley City, was suspended there in 2001 for misplacing $400 found on a suspect, money that was never recovered. He was also written up for searching a suspect’s house without a warrant, according to copies of his discipline files obtained by The Tribune in a public records request.
• The next hire, Kory Newbold, was also from West Valley City.
He was arrested for driving drunk in his car.
He was suspended in 2010 for that, but had already retired from the agency before his suspension period started. After it was over, he was rehired again by West Valley and later moved to the U., where he’s a sergeant.
• The third person Brophy added to command staff had a warning in his file from South Jordan police that said: “Not recommended for rehire.”
Larimie Lancaster was written up for revealing confidential hiring information, was suspended from SWAT deployments and regularly pulled officers out of mandatory trainings when he was their supervisor. Additionally, when a woman was given lye in her drink at a barbecue restaurant in 2014,
he was indifferent and told his boss he’d look into it later, records said. She was hospitalized for weeks.
• The man that Brophy chose as leader for his patrol division, Richard Whittaker, had once been suspended at South Jordan for kissing a subordinate officer while he was her sergeant.
The March 2015 letter describing his suspension said he also had coerced his female colleagues into hot tubs. It was his second write-up in less than two years for that same misconduct, according to records. He is also a sergeant at the U.
• Jill Pender, whom Brophy selected to head the campus dispatch department, was fired from Salt Lake City police in 2007.
A 911 call had dropped and, instead of trying to redial the person, she took two personal calls, records said. Before that, she’d had more than 18 disciplinary actions in her file, including a letter of reprimand for sending “inappropriate and sexually suggestive” emails to other staffers. She remains at the U.
Meanwhile, a sergeant hired by Brophy was assigned in his previous job to patrol a school. But a letter in his file said he was often seen at a nearby restaurant. He also regularly missed domestic violence trainings.
One officer Brophy hired had resigned at another agency over a DUI. Two had shot and killed suspects in police shootings that were later ruled justified. And one lieutenant was disciplined at the Salt Lake City police for flipping off a coworker.
Brophy, who had worked at the West Valley City Police Department from 1994 to 2013, was twice disciplined there for misconduct with women.
In 2002, two witnesses saw him grab the back of a female secretary’s bra
as she walked past him. Brophy acknowledged that he did it, “saying it was a stupid, prank-like thing to do,” according to public records of the discipline obtained by The Tribune.
The department also concluded that Brophy had rubbed the woman’s back a previous time without her consent. He was suspended for 80 hours and required to complete a training on sexual harassment.
In July 2003, Brophy was disciplined after he yelled at a female coworker over the phone. “You became angry and profane,” the letter in his file read. “This is not acceptable.”
Brophy was never disciplined at the U. But his department was examined by federal investigators
for mishandling a reported rape in October 2016; Brophy had openly questioned in a campuswide email whether the student was telling the truth.
He also came under fire in July 2017 after the controversial arrest of a female nurse, Alex Wubbels,
at the university hospital.
And two years after the chief hired his son-in-law, Justin Smith, to work for the department, administrators decided to move Smith.
Smith, then a student, was hired at the police department in October 2016 to pull surveillance video from campus cameras. He was “reassigned” to another university department on Oct. 30 of last year — about a week after McCluskey was killed and as the department faced public criticism.
Chris Nelson, spokesman for the university, said that Smith never reported directly to the chief, but was moved “to avoid any semblance” of favoritism. “There wasn’t any malfeasance going on,” Nelson added.
Brophy said Smith “did a phenomenal job while he worked there.” The former chief also stood by all of his hires.
“I hired people based on their competency level. If they came from West Valley, great. If they came from South Salt Lake, great,” he said. “It’s hard to find good people. And we determined they were good people for the department.”