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UCLA to Create New Office of Campus Safety

UCLA to Create New Office of Campus Safety

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers patrol near a protestor (L) at a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus in Los Angeles on May 1, 2024. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

5/5/2024

Updated: 5/5/2024

LOS ANGELES—UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announced a newly created Office of Campus Safety May 5 to administer policing and emergency management in the aftermath of campus unrest over pro-Palestinian demonstrations.
The school had came under heavy criticism for its response to violence that broke out at a protest encampment last week, with Gov. Gavin Newsom and other elected officials calling for investigations into the university’s reaction, and some critics even calling on Mr. Block to resign ahead of his previously announced plan to step down on July 31.
“In the past week, our campus has been shaken by events that have disturbed this sense of safety and strained trust within our community,” Mr. Block said in a message to the UCLA community Sunday. “In light of this, 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.
“I am therefore taking several actions to significantly alter our campus safety structure. ... 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 its inaugural associate vice chancellor will be Rick Braziel, who'll bring more than 30 years of public safety service to the job, including five years as chief of police for the city of Sacramento. Mr. Braziel has also served as an instructor in community policing and has led reviews of law enforcement agencies and police responses.
Mr. Block is also creating 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 of 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,” Mr. Block said.
“I fully support this appointment and believe that it is an important step towards restoring confidence in our public safety systems and procedures,” UC President Michael Drake said in a statement Sunday.
“In the days ahead, I will be announcing details about the independent external review of what happened last week at UCLA. It is critical that the questions that I and many others have are answered by a respected and impartial investigator.
“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. 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.”
Meanwhile, UCLA will resume regular campus operations Monday after classes were moved online Thursday and Friday due to the unrest.
“The campus will return to regular operations tomorrow, Monday 5/6, and plans to remain this way through the rest of the week,” UCLA announced. “Per updated Academic Senate guidance on instruction, faculty are encouraged to resume in-person instruction as soon as possible, but may continue to conduct courses remotely at their discretion through next Friday, May 10, without the need for departmental authorization. Students will hear from instructors directly.”
Police moved in and cleared the weeklong pro-Palestinian encampment early Thursday, arresting 209 people. Most of those arrested were booked on suspicion of unlawful assembly, then released from custody with instructions to appear in court at a later date.
No significant injuries to protesters or the hundreds of police officers who took part in the raid were reported.
Disputes between protesters at the encampment peaked overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday, when the pro-Palestinian encampment was attacked by counter-protesters supporting Israel who set of fireworks and allegedly deployed pepper spray or bear repellent. The violence prompted a cancellation of all classed at UCLA on Wednesday.
“We approached the encampment with the goal of maximizing our community members’ ability to make their voices heard on an urgent global issue,” Mr. Block said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “We had allowed it to remain in place so long as it did not jeopardize Bruins’ safety or harm our ability to carry out our mission.
“But while many of the protesters at the encampment remained peaceful, ultimately, the site became a focal point for serious violence as well as a huge disruption to our campus. Several days of violent clashes between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators put too many Bruins in harm’s way and created an environment that was completely unsafe for learning.”
The clearing of the encampment, however, gave a broader picture of the amount of damage done to the campus. The front of Royce Hall and Powell Library suffered extensive graffiti damage, some of it profane. Piles of garbage were also left behind in the former encampment area.
The school’s much-criticized response to the violence remained a point of contention this weekend. On Saturday, more than 20 UCLA faculty members and community activists rallied at the Hammer Museum to call for the resignation of Mr. Block, the Daily Bruin reported.
On May 23, Mr. Block is expected to testify before Congress about UCLA’s response to antisemitism on the campus and actions to protect Jewish students.
Meanwhile, the union that represents campus police officers at the 10 University of California schools blamed UCLA administrators for the delayed response to Tuesday’s fights and other violence between counter-protesters and people at the pro-Palestinian encampment.
Federated University Police Officers’ Association said Saturday that the probe by Mr. Drake into the university’s “planning, actions and response by law enforcement” must consider the UC’s own guidelines for response to campus protests.
“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.”
There was no response Saturday to emails sent to UCLA and Mr. Drake’s office seeking comment.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and other elected officials called for investigations into the university and police response. Observers said the Tuesday night attack was allowed to rage for several hours with little to no police intervention, until officers in riot gear finally moved in around 3 a.m. and restored order.
Organizers of the UCLA Palestine Solidarity Encampment, similar to their counterparts at USC, have issued a list of demands calling for divestment of all University of California and UCLA Foundation funds from companies tied to Israel, along with a demand that the university call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and begin an academic boycott against Israeli universities, including a suspension of study-abroad programs.
The UC issued a statement in response noting that the university has “consistently opposed calls for boycott against and divestment from Israel. While the university affirms the right of our community members to express diverse viewpoints, a boycott of this sort impinges on the academic freedom of our students and faculty and the unfettered exchange of ideas on our campuses.
“UC tuition and fees are the primary funding sources for the University’s core operations. None of these funds are used for investment purposes,” the statement continued.
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