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Shortly after the state began investigating Brigham Young University's police department last year, amid controversy over its access of other departments' records, an audit showed that BYU officers were incorrectly logging their use of state Bureau of Criminal Identification records.
In at least one rape case, The Salt Lake Tribune reported last year, a BYU officer accessed a Provo police report and shared its contents with BYU's Honor Code Office. Provo and BYU police departments asked the state Department of Public Safety to examine how BYU officers accessed and shared their own reports and the records of other Utah County police agencies.
DPS remains tight-lipped about the probe as the one-year anniversary of its May 26 launch approaches, saying only that it is ongoing and there is no date for completion.
But recently released records show that in June, DPS completed an audit showing BYU police were out of compliance in their access of the BCI database, which includes criminal histories, concealed carry permit records and outstanding warrants. The audit, obtained by The Tribune following a records request, says an auditor deemed the errors "non-serious."
The audit • Most of the problems discussed in the audit revolved around officers using BCI for background checks, including the finding that 10 percent of BYUPD's audited transactions had incorrect purpose codes a letter officers must enter to describe why they are accessing the database, such as a "C" for an investigative purpose or a "J" for employment purposes.
Auditors also found BYU police had frequently run background checks on employees at the school, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sixty-eight percent of searches run with the purpose code "J" were done on "non-users," people not employed by the police department, auditors found.
"Multiple checks were run on employees of the MTC [Mission Training Center] and the library," auditors wrote. "These are invalid purposes to run criminal history checks on individuals."
The Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which regulates police, has suspended officers over the years who have queried BCI records for personal reasons or reasons that have nothing do with public safety.
But DPS spokeswoman Marissa Cote said no one from BYU's police department was referred to POST for discipline as a result of the June BCI audit, which she said was routine and happens to each Utah police department every three years.
In a written response to the audit, BYU police representative Teresa Anderson wrote that the library employees whose backgrounds were searched were "building security student employees." No inquiries were run on non-security employees, Anderson asserted. Anderson's letter did not address the searches associated with the MTC, a Mormon church missionary training center adjacent to the BYU campus.
It doesn't appear that DPS officials probed further into MTC employee access, as a July 2016 letter to the university police force said DPS was "satisfied" with the response and corrections made by the department.
BYU Police Lt. Steven Messick told The Tribune last week that the university provides services to the MTC, including policing and security, and that the background checks were for security employees who work there.
As for the incorrect use of purpose codes, officers were retrained, according to the department's response to the audit.
"When the BYU Police Department was made aware that incorrect purpose codes had inadvertently been used," Messick told The Tribune, "the department made the changes needed."
When asked if incorrect purpose codes were frequently found in DPS audits, Cote said that they "do happen, but audits and training help correct these issues."
The investigation • The audit was completed the same month that DPS announced it was investigating how BYU police access records in a countywide database of law enforcement investigations. The investigation was intended to look into "access and dissemination issues including any possible violations related to the sexual assault reporting situation at BYU made public last spring," DPS officials said in a written statement released last June.
BYU is among 22 police forces in Utah County that share access to each other's reports through commercial software made by Spillman Technologies. The Utah County Sheriff's Office has administrator access to the database and provided data to The Tribune after the newspaper filed a records request. The data did not include which officer accessed the reports or what crimes the reports discussed.
According to the data, BYU officers accessed nearly 10,000 records between March 2015 and October 2016. They accessed 6,486 "main reports," and 3,177 "supplemental" reports, according to revised data released in October.
BYU police officials have declined to answer questions about the data until the DPS investigation is complete. Messick said in an October statement that the police chief asked for the DPS audit because it is unclear whether they access Spillman records more or less than other agencies.
"The university looks forward to the audit's findings as an opportunity to verify that the department regularly uses the Spillman system for appropriate purposes," the statement reads. "However, if there are improvements the department can make, it looks forward to making them."
The private university's police force does access other cases more often than the police force at nearby Utah Valley University, according to data from the sheriff's office.
During a 12-month period starting in May 2015, BYU police officers accessed 7,433 records compared to UVU police, who accessed 4,163 records, the data show. Each school has an enrollment of about 33,000 students.
BYU Honor Code case • According to documents obtained by The Tribune, and verified by Provo police, BYU police have accessed another agency's police reports at the behest of the Honor Code in at least one case. In November 2015, an Honor Code investigator with the school contacted a BYU police lieutenant and asked him to seek information on a rape case reported by student Madi Barney.
Police documents show the lieutenant accessed the Provo Police Department's case involving Barney that day, and relayed intimate details from the file to the Honor Code investigator.
A Utah County sheriff's deputy later brought the case to the Honor Code Office, which investigates violations of the dress code, and of the school's ban on alcohol and premarital sex, among other restrictions. Barney subsequently was forbidden from enrolling in future classes unless she submitted to an Honor Code investigation, which a prosecutor unsuccessfully asked the school to delay until the criminal rape case was resolved. A trial in her case is expected to begin in late May.
Barney was among several students who called for changes in how BYU handles sexual-assault reports. The private university responded by forming an advisory committee that studied the issue and announced sweeping changes last October. The school said it will restructure the school's Title IX Office and grant amnesty to victims who disclose Honor Code violations, among other changes.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said last week that the university has been "operating under the amnesty guidelines" since the changes were announced, and an amnesty statement is currently being drafted after it was reviewed by various school councils.