UA faucets interim head as fulltime chief of campus police

After an “in depth nationwide search,” interim police Chief Christopher Olson was chosen to guide the College of Arizona Police Division, UA officers introduced Friday.

In an e mail to UA school and employees Friday, college Chief Security Officer Steve Patterson mentioned he was happy to announce Olson’s appointment, including he was considered one of three finalist for the function. Since Might, Olson has “had an amazing impression” on UAPD, Patterson wrote.

his first 10 weeks, Olson made structural modifications at UAPD, created a
psychological well being staff help officer place, deliberate a group
academy, and initiated steps to include a Blue Envelope program to
assist officers talk with people with autism spectrum
problems throughout a site visitors cease,” Patterson wrote.

Olson’s appointment comes months after UA management was blasted by the
campus group for his or her response within the weeks and months main up
to the deadly taking pictures of Dr. Thomas Meixner by a former pupil final October. UA School Senate declared they’d “no confidence” in
President Robert Robbins and his administration, and UAPD Chief
Paula Balafas was compelled out, whereas Provost Liesl People was shifted to a
new place. 

After Balafas’ ouster, Olson stepped into the interim management function.

Patterson, a former FBI agent was tapped to assist lead the UA’s efforts to safe the campus, and he initially led UAPD within the weeks earlier than Olson was recruited from the Oro Valley Police Division.

The seek for the brand new UAPD chief was chaired by Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon normal and UA laureate professor, additionally served because the Pima County Sheriff’s Division surgeon and deputy sheriff. The search committee additionally included Dr. Lehman Benson, UA vice chairman for Black Development & Engagement; TPD Deputy Chief Monica Prieto; retired Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams; and Michael Thompson, the chief of Arizona State College Police.

“The 4 legislation enforcement professionals on the committee had greater than 130 years of mixed legislation enforcement management expertise, along with their educational credentials,” Patterson wrote. 

Olson has labored in legislation enforcement for 31 years, together with seven
years on the UAPD. He began in 1992 with Pima Faculty police earlier than
shifting the UAPD, the place he labored as a discipline coaching officer, police
canine handler, and bike officer from 1994 to 2001. In Sept. 2001,
he left UAPD for Oro Valley, the place he was promoted to the rank of
commander in 2019.

Olson can also be an adjunct school member at
the UA, instructing police accountability for the Faculty of Authorities and
Public Coverage.

UAPD faces threats

In October, the UAPD arrested a 27-year-old man after he posted on-line about plans to commit a mass taking pictures on the UA campus.

In a collection of posts to a gaggle Snapchat, Michael Pengchung Lee mentioned he was going to trigger a “mass tragedy and atrocity” on the UA, in accordance with court docket paperwork. Within the posts, he mentioned he would purchase an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and targeted his ire on the college’s fraternities and sororities.

Lee additionally linked himself to Elliot Rodger, an involuntary celibate or incel, who murdered six folks, together with fraternity and sorority members, and wounded greater than a dozen others in California almost 10 years in the past.

Patterson mentioned in a campus-wide e mail UAPD was first alerted to the group chat, and instantly enlisted the assistance of the FBI to rapidly establish Lee and arrest him.

“As soon as recognized, the legislation enforcement businesses monitored the person till his arrest about 24 hours after the preliminary report.”

“There isn’t any present or pending risk to the college group from this particular person, and no different people are being sought,” Patterson mentioned. Patterson mentioned Lee’s arrest was “an instance of a profitable collaborative effort” between UAPD, the UA’s newly-created risk evaluation staff, and the FBI’s violent crime and gang activity power.

‘Sitting geese’

In early October, Prof. Thomas Meixner was shot and killed by a former pupil, officers mentioned. Three hours later, the suspect — who had not too long ago been evicted from his condo — was arrested exterior Gila Bend, about 120 miles away.

Meixner, 52, was head of the UA’s Division of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences and famous for his work on the water high quality of desert rivers.

In a press convention simply hours after the taking pictures, Balafas refused to establish the sufferer, and advised the group, “when you see one thing, say one thing.” The Tucson Sentinel broke the information that evening that Meixner was the professor who was killed.

For greater than a yr earlier than the taking pictures, school, employees and college students reported to UA directors and campus police their considerations about Murad Dervish, who despatched threatening emails and was expelled from the college over his conduct. Regardless of these many purple flags, and an try by one professor to take out an order towards harassment, little was executed.

The UA nonetheless faces a $9 million lawsuit over what attorneys referred to as a
“shameful, pass-the-buck response to repeated violent threats” which
“immediately led to Dr. Thomas Meixner’s tragic homicide.

Dervish faces trial in Pima County Superior Courtroom on a first-degree homicide cost.

In a February UAPD publication, Balafas referred to as a School Senate evaluate of the college’s dealing with of the threats “important of UAPD, OIE, DOS, HR and a number of other different U of A Work divisions,” and declared “we’re stronger than our critics.”

A contracted evaluate of the incident ordered by Robbins disclosed that the accused gunman had been within the UAPD station simply days previous to the taking pictures, making an attempt to see information related to the license plate of his automobile. The expelled pupil had already been the topic of quite a few police experiences, however his presence didn’t immediate any motion that day.

The accused shooter repeatedly threatened and harassed different school members, with one other professor reporting the “harmful” sample to school officers and police a number of instances over many months.

“I knew he was going to attempt to kill me,” Prof. Christopher Castro mentioned.

School “felt like sitting geese” within the face of violent threats and a stream of racist, antisemitic and homophobic messages despatched by the alleged shooter, a former UA pupil who was kicked out of college due to his “intimidating” conduct, Castro advised the Tucson Sentinel simply days after the taking pictures.

Castro mentioned he laid out the sample intimately to UA police — with him predicting to an officer that the ex-student would act on his violent threats — and obtained an injunction towards harassment towards him when the professor felt police weren’t doing sufficient to guard him and his household. The college had ready an “exclusion order,” looking for to bar him from ever setting foot on campus.

Neither that order nor the harassment injunction had been ever served.

Describing “purple flag after purple flag,” Castro advised the Sentinel that the College of Arizona Police Division by no means served that order on the alleged shooter, 46-year-old former graduate pupil Murad Can Dervish.

After Castro personally went to court docket to acquire an injunction towards harassment towards Dervish, that order was by no means served by the Pima County Constables Workplace, information present.

But the ex-student was persevering with to stay in a visitor home simply six blocks from the UA campus (and 5 blocks from the Constables Workplace) within the West College neighborhood, and was simply discovered by a non-public course of server in a later eviction case.

“Proper there, he was proper there, the entire fucking time,” Castro mentioned, choking again tears and rage. “We had been shouting in the dead of night. And nobody heard.”

The ex-student continued to harass the professor by way of e mail after a choose granted that injunction, he mentioned — which might have made Dervish topic to arrest if he had been served.

Castro — additionally a professor within the division — mentioned he believes he was additionally a goal within the taking pictures, which he mentioned was timed for when his subsequent class can be beginning in that very same room, and he and Meixner would each be current throughout the changeover. The one cause he is alive is as a result of he was out of city that day, he advised the Sentinel.

On the finish of March, the School Senate voted 29-13 to approve a narrowly written movement towards Robbins, in addition to Balafas, People, Chief Monetary Officer Lisa Rulney, Normal Counsel Laura Todd Johnson, and Dean of College students Kendal Washington White.

The movement accused UA management of “failing” to guard Meixner and others, and criticized a “combative” response to school considerations.

The vote got here on the heels of a press convention that afternoon, when Robbins described a collection of systemic failures, together with “missed alternatives and errors” that finally led to the October deadly taking pictures by a former graduate pupil. On Monday morning, the UA launched a report by consultants employed to evaluate the Oct. 5, 2022 incident which revealed “systemic points throughout our college that ought to have been recognized and corrected.”

Robbins advised reporters that the guide’s report “reveals there have been systemic points throughout our college that ought to have been recognized and corrected.”

Meixner’s loss “left a everlasting gap within the lives of all who beloved him” and Robbins mentioned he was saddened for “all those that needed to witness this tragic occasion.”

“My second emotion is anger,” Robbins mentioned. “As this report reveals there have been systemic points throughout our college that ought to have been recognized and corrected. I am offended at myself that I didn’t do extra to stop this tragedy. And most of all, I am offended on the man who took from us, our beloved one, buddy and colleague.”

In March, Robbins advised reporters that he had “confidence within the management with UAPD,” however “these cases although the place they missed the chance to apprehend the suspect is one thing that may be a failure.”

“Going ahead we’ll work on what do we have to do to raised observe insurance policies and procedures round who we are able to arrest, after we can arrest them, how we are able to get costs really filed? So I believe that there is clearly quite a lot of room for alternative for enchancment,” he mentioned.

The PAX Group consultants made 33 suggestions, which embrace increasing security coaching to people and items; putting in fireplace and safety-compliant locks on classroom doorways; increasing key-less entry to buildings; operating legal background checks on graduate college students; and mechanically registering all college students, school, and employees to obtain college alerts.

Whereas the UA has launched the PAX Group report, different components of the investigation have remained opaque. The UA, together with the UA Police Division, has but to launch public information sought by information retailers, together with Tucson Sentinel. UA representatives haven’t responded to quite a few requests for information that must be promptly offered below Arizona legislation.