Utah State police chief resigns after sex-assault comments

Dec 16, 2021, 12:25 PM | Updated: 1:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah State University police chief has resigned after a recording came to light of him telling football players that some religious women may say sex was not consensual because they regret it. The institution called his comments “reprehensible.”

Chief Earl Morris stepped down Thursday, the school confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune, shortly after the newspaper obtained a recording of his comments about women who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the predominant faith in Utah. He had been placed on administrative leave the day before.

After claiming that Latter-day Saint women might tell their religious leaders they didn’t consent to sex, Morris said that if players are accused of assault, officers have to investigate and “the cards are stacked against you.”

Morris and the assistant police chief for the city of Logan — where the university is located — also gave players their personal cellphone numbers to call if they needed advice or had complaints about officer treatment, according to the recording.

The recording was also described in a lawsuit filed against the university this week by a female student who said the school had mishandled her sexual-assault report involving a football player despite promising to improve in the wake of a previous scandal involving a school athlete.

“The leader of the university’s police department must have the trust of the campus community,” Utah State had said in a statement Wednesday.

His recorded comments “are not consistent with the university’s values or the trainings provided on sexual misconduct at Utah State, nor do they reflect USU’s efforts to prevent sexual misconduct and reduce barriers to reporting.”

Morris, who had been chief since July 2019, declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press.

The school’s previous scandal involved Torrey Green, who was convicted in 2019 of sexually assaulting six women between 2013 and 2015 when he was on the university football team. Four women reported to police being assaulted by Green, but no charges were filed until after the Tribune published a story about the case.

The U.S. Department of Justice later found Utah State often closed cases involving football players after minimal investigation. The school promised to improve, but the student who sued this week said her 2019 sexual assault allegation against a different football player was still mishandled.

She said in the lawsuit the university continues to protect its football team and brushes aside women who report assaults by players, assertions that run counter to the chief’s comments about investigations on the recording.

Utah State, for its part, says it has made progress in the last five years, including mandating prevention training for students and additional education for student athletes.

The recording surfaced shortly before Utah State is set to face Oregon State in the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl on Saturday.

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Utah State police chief resigns after sex-assault comments