Students Continue to Plea for Safety Measures after Brophy’s $6,000 Retirement Party

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(Illustration by Izzy Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Natalie Colby, News Editor

 

Dale Brophy, former police chief of the University of Utah Police Department, retired in October 2019 after four years of service to the department and 25 years overall in law enforcement. The announcement came after a controversial year as Lauren McCluskey was murdered on campus after several attempts at warning the police of her stalker and several calls had been made for Brophy to be fired.

Additionally, during his time as chief, there were three murders on campus and several more controversial events. 

In celebration of the former chief, UPD threw a retirement party on Oct. 13, 2019, with a price tag totaling almost $6,000, including around $4,000 on Taco House and $300 on quesadillas for a department of a couple of hundred people and select members of the community. 

“I’m no party planner, but I don’t think the average retirement costs 6K,” said Alexis Williams, a senior and chemistry major. “I’d maybe be okay with splurging that money on a respectable officer who actually deserved a retirement like that, but not for this guy.”

Communications Director Chris Nelson said the party was funded solely through donor money — no tuition dollars or taxpayer money was involved — and the party was meant to honor an officer who spent 25 years in public service.

In response to the party, Unsafe.U, an independent and anonymous organization that is dedicated to raising awareness of safety issues on campus, posted a question on their Instagram story asking followers how they think the U could have better spent the money. Responses poured in and many of them addressed safety issues on campus, saying things such as “bystander training,” “a part-time victim-survivor advocate” and “cameras for the MHC.” One student even pointed out that the money could help pay a semester of their tuition at least.

“Put it toward the McCluskey lawsuit, put it towards the department of safety, put it towards giving a deserving officer a raise to reward him, put the excess money towards toilet paper that is more than 1-ply sandpaper,” Williams said.

Nelson said he can understand students’ frustration and acknowledges the comments they made about how the money should have been spent as legitimate.

“It was a decision that department made, I did not make that decision so I’m not necessarily going to justify it,” Nelson said. 

Unsafe U also posted a link to an article from The Salt Lake Tribune about the party. “This is just one example of how the University of Utah mismanaged money and disregards their responsibility to students. I am disgusted with the University,” said user @gabrielle_korpas.

“Embarrassed to be an alumni. This is BS,” said user @karliebodine.

Nelson said the $6,000 was specifically budgeted for employee events and morale activities and it would not have necessarily gone to something else. 

Student outrage did not just come from the amount of money spent, though. Makenna Montano, a health graduate from the U, was among those dissatisfied with not only the party but also Cheif Brophy’s service for the U as a whole.

“How do you honor a man with a record of turning over more than 50% of U police staff and replacing them with West Valley coworkers, and leadership that had been formally disciplined for drunk driving and sexually harassing subordinates at previous agencies?” Montano said. “To me, it was obvious that Chief Brophy failed when it came to protecting Lauren McCluskey, and Ruth Watkins praised that failure as a success.”

“I keep thinking that all of the criticism the U has been receiving lately, they’ll start acting right, but I stand corrected,” Williams said.

Both Montano and Williams stated they were disappointed and disheartened to hear the news of the party. However, they were not surprised.

“I felt shame for paying so much to a university that invests their funding this way,” Montano said. 

“Brophy was not a hero. His job performance was not worth that much money,” Williams said. 

Despite criticism, Nelson said the U has actively listened to students and worked to address their concerns.

“The university’s budget in its entirety is a $5 billion organization and the university in the last year has put upwards of $7 million towards safety,” he said. 

Nelson emphasized the U is going in an entirely different direction with replacing the police chief and added additional oversight through the new chief safety officer. They will be working on improving culture, safety and processes in the police department, as well as other campus safety concerns.

 

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@natalie__news