UCLA announces policy changes after officers union blames leadership for protest response

An independent external review is underway after police forcibly removed protesters.
Campus Protests Then and Now
Posted at 9:03 AM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 09:03:46-04

UCLA announced numerous public safety changes after the union representing officers on campus blamed university administrators for violence at protest encampments.

The encampments were erected as pro-Palestinian demonstrators have rallied on college campuses throughout the U.S. in recent weeks. Over 200 people were reportedly arrested last week when police forcibly removed barricades on campus.

On Friday, the Federated University Police Officers’ Association released a statement following the incident.

"In the University of California system, the Police Departments on each campus are entrusted with the critical responsibility of maintaining law and order," the union said. "However, 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. 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."

Rep. William Timmons, accompanied by other members of Congress, speaks to the media after touring the George Washington University student encampment.

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Late Sunday, UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said the university's police department will no longer be managed by the Office of the Administrative Vice Chancellor and instead will be controlled by a newly created Office of Campus Safety. Block said the office will report directly to him.

"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," he said.

Block said that former Sacramento Chief of Police Rick Braziel has been hired to lead the newly formed office.

"The well-being of our students, faculty and staff is paramount. These actions are essential for creating a secure environment where everyone at UCLA can confidently pursue their studies and careers," Block added.

Michael Drake, the University of California president overseeing the state's public university system, supported UCLA in announcing that the encampments must come down. Drake said officials are conducting an independent external review.

"It is critical that the questions that I and many others have are answered by a respected and impartial investigator," Drake said.

March and Rally Los Angeles, a group that backs the pro-Palestinian protests, said the encampments were attacked by supporters of Israel who intended to hurt demonstrators. But university officials say the demonstrations have caused fear among Jewish students.

Block said many of the protesters and counterprotesters have been peaceful in their activism, but "the tactics of others have frankly been shocking and shameful."

"We have seen instances of violence completely at odds with our values as an institution dedicated to respect and mutual understanding," Block said. "In other cases, students on their way to class have been physically blocked from accessing parts of the campus."

Block added that the protests hampered the university's ability to educate students and many on campus, especially Jewish students, felt unsafe.