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UCLA creates new office to oversee campus safety after violence surrounding pro-Palestinian encampment

Classes are set to resume in person starting Monday on the UCLA campus, five days after Los Angeles police arrested over 200 protesters who they say failed to adhere to dispersal orders of a pro-Palestinian student encampment.

"In the past week, our campus has been shaken by events that have disturbed this sense of safety and strained trust within our community," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, referring to the recent violence that erupted on campus at and near the site of the encampment.

The encampment started growing over the previous two weeks, but was dismantled on May 2nd. In light of recent events, Block said urgent changes needed to be made in how safety operations are administered on campus. 

He issued this statement Sunday:

"Dear Bruin Community:

"Protecting the safety of our community underpins everything we do at UCLA. Our students, faculty and staff can only learn, work and thrive in an environment where they feel secure.
"In the past week, our campus has been shaken by events that have disturbed this sense of safety and strained trust within our community. 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. These decisions were not made lightly — but my leadership team and I feel that decisive change is needed to help maintain a safe campus environment.
"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 Office of Campus Safety as its inaugural associate vice chancellor is Rick Braziel, who brings to the position more than 30 years of public safety service, including five years as chief of police for the City of Sacramento. Braziel has also served as an instructor in community policing and has led reviews of law enforcement agencies and police responses.
"Additionally, I have created a formal advisory group with expert leaders who will partner with AVC Braziel. Members of this advisory group include UC Davis Chief of Police and Coordinator of the Council of UC Chiefs of Police Joe Farrow, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Professor 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.

"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."

Last Thursday morning, police moved into the encampment in the area of Royce Quad between Royce Hall and Powell Library after multiple warnings to leave were given. Officers broke through the makeshift barriers on the perimeter of the encampment and arrested more than 200 people. Those inside were taken to jail and were released hours later, with their arrests being classified as misdemeanor charges. 

The dismantling of the encampment occurred a day after violence erupted, with individuals inside it being attacked by counter-demonstrators who threw traffic cones, released pepper spray and tore down barriers. Fighting continued for several hours before police stepped in, and no one was arrested. At least 15 protesters suffered injuries.

Block was under fire for not calling in police to quell the violence sooner. He promised a review of the night's events after California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass denounced the delays. In a statement posted Thursday, Block characterized the past week as among "the most painful periods" the UCLA community has ever experienced. He went on to say that, "[i]t has fractured our sense of togetherness and frayed our bonds of trust, and will surely leave a scar on the campus."

Though the encampment has since been cleared, in a written alert shared Sunday, UCLA asked students to continue to avoid the area where it previously stood. 

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