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University of Utah’s new chief safety officer leaving for Michigan State

Marlon Lynch, the new chief safety officer at the University of Utah, attend a student safety forum at the Alumni House on the U. campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.
Marlon Lynch, the new chief safety officer at the University of Utah, attends a student safety forum at the Alumni House on the U. campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Just a year after becoming the University of Utah’s first chief safety officer, Marlon C. Lynch is leaving the U. to take a similar position at his alma mater.

The University of Utah and Lynch announced Tuesday that he will be leaving at the end of March to become the vice president for public safety and chief of police at Michigan State University.

Lynch’s position was created at the University of Utah following the on-campus murder of student Lauren McCluskey as part of a number of public safety reforms. The chief safety officer oversees the U. police department.

But the university’s police chief is currently on administrative leave as multiple agencies continue an investigation, and University of Utah President Ruth Watkins recently announced that she is stepping down to take a new job. The school has not commented on why Police Chief Rodney Chatman is on leave or whether it is related to issues surrounding his peace officer certification in Utah.

Lynch was hired by Watkins in December 2019 to head the new position and started working in February 2020. Chatman was hired about the same time.

“This new opportunity was unexpected, and my decision was not an easy one to make,” Lynch said in a prepared statement, noting he had mixed emotions about leaving. “In addition to enabling me to be closer to my family, I have deep connections to MSU, which is my alma mater and an institution attended by a number of my family members.

“In the year we have had together, we have accomplished amazing work on an extremely fast track, restructuring safety operations in a way that positions the university to carry this momentum well into the future and achieve a true transformation of safety on our campus,” he said.

The university released its own statement, saying it is sad to see Lynch go.

“We’re disappointed to be losing Marlon but wish him the very best in this new role,” said Cathy Anderson, the university’s chief financial officer. “Marlon is a nationally recognized campus safety expert, so it comes as no surprise that he is highly sought after. During the year he has been with us he has transformed our university’s public safety functions that traditionally reported through the chief of police.”

Former Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires, who has been serving as Lynch’s executive officer, will take over for Lynch in the interim while the university searches for a full-time replacement.

Lynch came to Utah from New York University where he was also the head of public safety.

Under Lynch, public safety functions at the U. were restructured so that University police, University of Utah Health security, campus security and emergency services all reported to him rather than to the chief of police.

“Marlon set the bar high as our inaugural chief safety officer, transforming the way we manage safety on our campus,” said Watkins, who announced last month that she is also leaving the university. “He achieved meaningful change and has put us on the right track to be a national model of campus safety.”

Watkins, who has been the university’s president for three years, will step down in April after accepting the position of president of Strada Impact.