The Logan Police Department has announced that it will investigate Officer Miguel Deras, who is accused of showing off explicit photos of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey while he was supposed to be investigating her extortion case at his previous job with the University of Utah.
In a statement Sunday evening, the department said it didn’t know about the incident prior to hiring Deras last year and only learned about it from a story in The Salt Lake Tribune.
“We are very concerned about this allegation and are starting our own internal investigation to determine the facts,” the statement read. “At the end of the investigation we will take whatever action is appropriate based on the facts we discover.”
Deras began working for Logan police in September 2019 after leaving the U.
Before that, he had been assigned to investigate McCluskey’s concerns when she came to the U.’s campus police department in October 2018. She reported that someone was threatening to release compromising photos she had taken of herself if she didn’t hand over $1,000.
Scared by the demand, she paid the money and then sent copies of the messages and the pictures to Deras as evidence for her case. He saved the photos on his personal phone. And days before McCluskey was killed by the man who was blackmailing her, Deras showed off at least one of the images to a male co-worker and bragged about getting to look at them whenever he wanted, according to two fellow officers.
The U. confirmed to The Tribune that the display occurred as part of a records request after speaking to the co-worker. The Tribune also spoke to another officer who overheard the conversation and noted that Deras “boasted” about it.
Neither officer reported the incident at the time, and Deras was never disciplined for it.
The U. has said that he left the department before the school learned about his conduct a year prior.
McCluskey, 21, was killed on Oct. 22, 2018 outside her dorm by the man who had been blackmailing her over the photos, Melvin S. Rowland. McCluskey had briefly dated him and tried to warn the campus officer about him several times after they broke up. But they did little to look into her concerns, and Rowland later died by suicide.
On Sunday, Logan police said of the concerns surrounding Deras showing off her photos: “This is the first time we have heard about this allegation.”
It has declined to comment further “until we have information from our investigation,” according to the statement. It’s unclear if Deras will be put on leave during the review. The officer did not immediately respond to a request from The Tribune for comment.
When Logan police hired Deras, though, Chief Gary Jensen defended the choice — even after Deras’ other missteps in McCluskey’s case, noted in an independent review, and after he was written up months after that for his inappropriate response to another domestic violence call.
At the time, Jensen noted, “He did nothing egregiously wrong.”
The chief went on to say: “We’ve done what we can do to make sure that Miguel is prepared to be successful. We’re committed to him as a new employee.”
Before joining the U.’s force, Deras had previously worked at the Logan department as an animal control officer.
The Logan police department, too, has come under fire in the past for how it handled multiple reports of rape and sexual assault involving then-Utah State University football player Torrey Green. The department received all four initial complaints against Green in 2015 and did not communicate the allegations to the school. Green was also not charged with any crimes until more than a year later, though he has since been convicted and sentenced to up to life in prison.
In addition to the investigation within the Logan department, Deras could also face discipline from the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) council, which oversees certifying officers. Maj. Scott Stephenson, who leads POST, said showing off compromising photos of a victim could be grounds for an officer’s certification to be suspended or revoked.
He also believes that Deras could possibly face charges for what’s referred to as “revenge porn.”
For its part, the U. claims it doesn’t have any physical evidence of Deras’ conduct. It conducted a phone download in July 2019, but didn’t find the files. Deras had gotten a new phone before that and most of what was retrieved in the process was corrupted.
But the officer whom he showed the photos to substantiated the account to U. investigators sometime after September 2019 after Deras had left. The U. has said that officer will not be disciplined because he did not solicit the pictures.
The school didn’t report the information to POST. But it says all campus officers were specifically trained after the incident on how to handle evidence and the best practices for how victims should share photos related to their case (preferably on a USB drive rather than transmitting any images via email).