UCLA police chief reassigned after security lapses over pro-Palestinian protests

UCLA Police Chief John Thomas has been removed from his position and reassigned, officials said, weeks after he faced harsh criticism for security failures that led to violence at a pro-Palestinian camp.

Rick Braziel, associate vice chancellor who heads the newly created Office of Campus Security, informed Thomas this week that he would be reassigned while internal and external investigations examine campus security deficiencies that left UCLA students and others involved in the camp of protest to their fate. attackers for three hours before law enforcement intervened to quell the melee.

UCLA Police Capt. Gawin Gibson was named interim police chief effective Tuesday, according to Mary Osako, vice chancellor for strategic communications.

He added that UCLA's Office of Campus Safety “is leading a comprehensive review of our safety processes aimed at improving the well-being and safety of our community.”

Thomas did not return text messages or calls for comment.

“Given Chief Thomas' poor handling of keeping our community safe and the deafening calls for him to step aside, this had to happen,” said one source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Thomas had lost trust within UCLA and among some outside law enforcement officials, who criticized what they said was the police chief's lack of proper planning, coordination and communication to create a campus security plan and secure enough officers to carry it out in case violence occurs. the camp. Both the police chief and Michael Beck, the administrative vice chancellor who oversaw the police department and the Office of Emergency Management at the time, have faced calls to resign. Brazil has taken charge of both units as security director.

After pro-Palestinian supporters set up camp on a grassy quad at UCLA, campus leaders asked Thomas to create a detailed, written security plan that laid out actions for various scenarios, from demonstrations to skirmishes to violence in every rule, but he did not receive one. , three sources told The Times. The police chief was told to use any necessary overtime pay to get help from outside authorities, but Thomas said a paperwork logjam between the city and state prevented him from completing any contract before the camp was attacked the night from April 30.

Thomas, in a previous interview with The Times, defended his actions and said he did the best he could.

The shakeup in the UCLA Police Department comes after more than three tense weeks on campus since the violent mob attack.

Thomas was named police chief in January and had served as interim chief since 2022. He came to UCLA from USC in 2022 as interim police chief. At USC, he had been an executive and head of the Department of Public Safety since 2013. He worked as a deputy chief and police captain at USC after arriving on campus in 2009 from the LAPD, where he was a lieutenant. He also previously served in the Washington, DC Police Department.

The decision on police leadership was made before UCLA Chancellor Gene Block testifies in Washington, D.C. at a House education committee hearing on anti-Semitism alongside the presidents of Rutgers and Northwestern universities. The committee is expected to aggressively question Block about the April 30 violence at the UCLA camp and accusations of anti-Semitism during pro-Palestinian protests.

Previous congressional hearings included the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University.

University of California President Michael V. Drake has launched an outside investigation into the security, which Block says he welcomes as he launches his own review.

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