UCLA Announces New Office of Campus Safety After Violent Protests

The union that represents campus police at all 10 University of California campuses is blaming UCLA administrators for its officers’ response.

UCLA Announces New Office of Campus Safety After Violent Protests

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The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) announced the creation of the Office of Campus Safety to oversee policing and emergency management in the aftermath of campus unrest over Israel-Hamas war demonstrations.

The school received significant criticism for its response to violence that broke out after a group of counter-protesters tried to tear down a pro-Palestine encampment late Tuesday night. The counter-protesters set off fireworks and allegedly deployed pepper spray or bear repellent, NBC reports. Observers said the attack continued for several hours with little to no police intervention before officers in riot gear moved in around 3 a.m., arresting 209 people. At least 15 people were reported injured, including one requiring hospitalization. UCLA resumed regular operations Monday after classes were moved online Thursday and Friday.

Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected officials subsequently called for investigations into the school’s planning, actions, and response by law enforcement, and University of California President Michael V. Drake ordered an independent review, Campus Safety previously reported.

“Both UCLA and the UC Office of the President have committed to a thorough investigation of our security processes. But one thing is already clear: To best protect our community moving forward, urgent changes are needed in how we administer safety operations,” Chancellor Gene Block wrote in a message to the campus community Sunday night. “Effective immediately, I am moving oversight and management of UCLA PD and the Office of Emergency Management from the Office of the Administrative Vice Chancellor to a newly created Office of Campus Safety, whose leader reports directly to me. It is clear that UCLA needs a unit and leader whose sole responsibility is campus safety to guide us through tense times. This organizational structure, which elevates our safety and emergency management operations, has proven to be an effective one at other major universities across the country.”

Leading the new office as inaugural associate vice chancellor is Rick Braziel, who worked for the Sacramento Police Department for 33 years, including five as its chief of police before his retirement. Block also announced the creation of a formal advisory group whose members include UC Davis Chief of Police and Coordinator of the Council of UC Chiefs of Police Joe Farrow, professor of psychology and health policy and management Vickie Mays, and UC Office of the President Systemwide Director of Community Safety Jody Stiger.

“I am confident that AVC Braziel, in partnership with this advisory group, will provide effective new leadership of our safety and emergency management operations,” Block said.

Drake wrote in a statement Sunday that he fully supports the appointment and will announce details about the independent external review “in the days ahead.”

“Finally, I urge the UC community and any visitors to our campuses to treat each other with dignity and respect, and to maintain a civil and safe environment for all — even when protesting contentious issues and in highly emotional situations,” he said. “The University of California has a rich tradition of robust expression, one we want to preserve in a safe and respectful manner. When peaceful protests become magnets for violence or impede our community’s access to classes and their employment, it is imperative that we take the actions necessary to protect our communities and restore access.”

UC Police Union Blames UCLA Admins for Officer Response

The union that represents campus police at all 10 University of California campuses is blaming administrators for its officers’ response. Federated University Police Officers’ Association (FUPOA) wrote in a statement Saturday that police followed the guidelines written by UC administrators.

“The written guidelines for roles and responsibilities make clear that senior UC administrators on each campus are solely responsible for the University’s response to campus protests; those administrators decide the objective, and campus police are only responsible for tactics in implementing those objectives,” FUPOA President Wade Stern said. “As such, the UCLA administration owns all the fallout from the response and lack of response to this protest.”

The union also claims administrators told campus police to “stand down and stand aside” during the protests.

“It’s paramount to recognize that when protests erupt on campus, the decisions regarding the response of the UC Police rest firmly in the hands of campus leadership,” the statement continues. “They shoulder the accountability for the outcomes stemming from these decisions, not the UC Police Department. It underscores the crucial distinction between operational execution and strategic direction. The campus leadership, not law enforcement, owns the results of their decisions.”

UCLA Police Chief Center of Independent Review

According to the Los Angeles Times, Drake’s review of the response revolves around UCLA Police Chief John Thomas and his alleged lack of a safety plan amid the protests. Campus leadership allegedly directed Thomas to create a safety plan that would protect the UCLA community after the encampment was put up last week.

According to several sources, the morning before Tuesday night’s attack on the encampment, Thomas assured university leadership that he could mobilize law enforcement “in minutes,” but it took three hours. Thomas said he was referring to a general response — not a force large enough to handle the size of the crowds that night.

Thomas said he advised leadership not to allow an encampment since it violated campus rules against overnight camping, but that they decided to allow tents “as an expression of students’ First Amendment Rights” and directed that police not be included in any security plan.

Under UC’s systemwide community safety plan, police are deployed as a last resort. As a result, Thomas said he developed a plan that relied on private security and ensured the Los Angeles Police Department would be alerted if problems ensued, according to the LA Times. The private security guards, who were not authorized to make arrests, were allegedly instructed to contact UCLA police if needed.

When Thomas was alerted to the problems by Beck Tuesday night, he said he immediately called the LAPD’s West L.A. station and asked the watch commander to deploy resources. He then called UCLA’s watch commander and instructed him to call in mutual aid assistance from law enforcement with the cities of Beverly Hills, Culver City, and Santa Monica and sheriff’s deputies.

Thomas said he arrived on campus shortly before midnight and found that 19 officers from UCLA, the LAPD, and three of the mutual aid agencies had arrived but had not tried to subdue the violence. When asked why, Thomas said an LAPD lieutenant told him the force was too small. Thomas also said he asked why they couldn’t go in with the forces they had, and the lieutenant told him he was directed to wait.

“I did everything I could to increase the police presence that we couldn’t provide because of our small department,” he said.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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