UCLA police chief reassigned after campus violence

Three weeks after law enforcement cleared a massive pro-Palestinian encampment from the UCLA campus and arrested more than 200 people, the university's police chief has been removed from his job and reassigned.

Chief John Thomas confirmed the move late Tuesday in a text message to the Daily Bruin campus newspaper.

"There's been a lot going on and I learned late yesterday (Monday) that I'm temporarily reassigned from my duties as chief," Thomas told the paper.

SUGGESTED: UCLA's new Campus Safety Office investigating attack on pro-Palestine encampment

There was no immediate word on what position Thomas had been assigned to. He has been the campus police chief since January.

In a statement, UCLA Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications Mary Osako said Gawin Gibson has been named acting chief.

"John Thomas has been reassigned temporarily, pending an examination of our security processes," Osako said. "As we said on May 5, UCLA created a new Office of Campus Safety that is leading a thorough examination of our security processes aimed at enhancing the wellbeing and safety of our community."

UCLA received national attention in early May when a group of largely masked counter-protesters launched a violent attack on the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus, leading to criticism of a slow police response to the assault that left several people injured.

The next night, hundreds of law enforcement officers from various agencies descended on the campus and cleared the encampment, arresting 209 people. The university was forced to close for a day, then temporarily shift to remote learning in the aftermath of the unrest.

Days after the encampment clearing, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announced that he had appointed Vice Chancellor Rick Braziel as the head of a newly created Office of Campus Safety, with oversight of the police department.

SUGGESTED: UCLA protests: LAPD arrives in riot gear 2 hours after violence erupts at pro-Palestinian encampment

Block, who is set to retire at the end of July, is scheduled to testify before a congressional committee on Thursday about the university's response to antisemitism on campus. Meanwhile, the chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent a letter last week demanding that the UC system turn over all communications and documents relating to alleged campus antisemitism since Oct. 7, the date of the Hamas attack on Israel.

University of California President Michael Drake said the university system has begun an independent investigation of the UCLA response to the violence. The UC hired 21st Century Policing Solutions — a police-tactics consulting firm — to lead the university system's probe of actions taken at UCLA.

Block, meanwhile, said Braziel was leading a high-tech investigation in an effort to identify the people who attacked the encampment the night before it was cleared.

The Federated University Police Officers Association, the union that represents UC police officers, has laid blame for failures in the response to campus unrest on university 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 in a statement.

"As such, the UCLA administration owns all the fallout from the response and lack of response to this protest."

Meanwhile, unionized graduate students at UC campuses across the state have been threatening to conduct rolling strikes in response to the handling of pro-Palestinian protests. Workers have already been striking at UC Santa Cruz, and the union has suggested walkouts could occur at other campuses. The union and the UC system have traded allegations of unfair labor practices.

The union is demanding amnesty for employees and students who took part in protests and are facing disciplinary actions, along with guarantees of free-speech protections and the right to political expression on campus. The UC system said any strikes based on such demands would be illegal, since they are non-labor issues that fall outside the scope of the union's labor agreement.