U.C.L.A. Removes Police Chief in the Wake of a Protest Melee

U.C.L.A. Removes Police Chief in the Wake of a Protest Melee

The campus police chief for the University of California, Los Angeles, has been removed from his post in the aftermath of a violent, hourslong attack on a pro-Palestinian encampment at the school, during which security officers did not intervene.

The chief, John Thomas, has been reassigned temporarily while the university examines its security processes, according to U.C.L.A. officials.

Mr. Thomas had been under intense criticism over the university’s delayed response to the melee on the night of April 30 in which people were beaten with poles or kicked, objects were thrown and chemicals were sprayed into the air. The attack was instigated by dozens of counterprotesters, many of whom did not appear to be students, based on videos of the incident.

Even after officers from the Los Angeles Police Department arrived on the scene, no arrests were made that night.

The university canceled in-person classes the next day, pushed back midterm exams and scrambled to address the overnight eruption of bloody violence.

Gawin Gibson has been named the acting police chief for the campus, Mary Osako, vice chancellor for strategic communications, said in a statement. Mr. Gibson was the captain of the university’s operations bureau, according to the school’s website.

“U.C.L.A. created a new Office of Campus Safety that is leading a thorough examination of our security processes aimed at enhancing the well-being and safety of our community,” Ms. Osako said.

Mr. Thomas, who was once an L.A.P.D. officer, was appointed the university’s chief of police in January after serving as its interim police chief for a little more than a year.

Previously, he had worked at the University of Southern California for about 16 years in various roles in the Department of Public Safety, including as its executive director and chief. He had also been the deputy chief of police and emergency management at the University of the District of Columbia.

Mr. Thomas has defended his actions on the night of the attack, telling The Los Angeles Times that he quickly called L.A.P.D. But when officers arrived, they did not immediately intervene. A lieutenant said he had been directed to wait, according to Mr. Thomas. There have yet to be arrests in the incident.

For many students and faculty, outrage over the incident intensified when university officials decided to take an aggressive approach the next night and had law enforcement officers take down the pro-Palestinian encampment.

In that encounter, police officers arrived on campus in riot gear and faced off with hundreds of protesters. More than 200 people were arrested, and most of them were charged with misdemeanors such as unlawful assembly, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The university soon after announced that it had created a new campus safety position to oversee the school Police Department, and that it had appointed Rick Braziel, a former chief of the Sacramento Police Department, to the role.

“To best protect our community moving forward, urgent changes are needed in how we administer safety operations,” the university’s chancellor, Gene Block, said in a statement at the time.

Dr. Block has been under fire himself, and he is expected to speak at a House committee hearing on Thursday about his response to antisemitism on campus.

In testimony already submitted to the committee, Dr. Block said the university had given protesters written notice that the encampment was an unlawful assembly and that it would be removed.

“But before the necessary police resources could be assembled to remove the encampment, which had become a focal point of conflict, assailants attacked the encampment that evening,” he wrote. “Tragically, it took several hours before law enforcement could quell the violence.”

Dr. Block said he understood the pain of antisemitism, having lived with it himself “as a Jewish kid growing up in the Catskills region of New York, in a family with relatives who were Holocaust victims and survivors.”

He added that an independent police consultant had initiated a review of the confrontation, including the university’s planning and security protocols. “We will hold accountable those who engaged in violence and violated our policies,” he wrote.

Last week, the Academic Senate at U.C.L.A. voted against two resolutions that would have rebuked Mr. Block, who has led the school since 2007 and is set to retire in July.

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