Update on community safety

To: UC Santa Cruz Community

From: Sarah Latham, Vice Chancellor, Business and Administrative Services

UC Santa Cruz, like many universities and cities across the country, is in the midst of critically examining our structures so that we can address real concerns about policing, community safety, and the barriers to creating a sense of belonging for all in our campus community. 

A critical element in advancing this effort is our Campus Safety Community Advisory Board, which now reports directly to the chancellor. The board, made up of students, faculty, and staff, has already met twice and is beginning to develop its work plan for the academic year ahead. Some of the areas it will review include protests and free speech events, harm reduction, community engagement, and accountability.

Additionally, changes in leadership provide the university with an opportunity for review and new perspectives on how we approach our work. 

Earlier this fall, UC Santa Cruz Police Chief Nader Oweis announced his retirement after 27 years of service to the University of California, nine of which were at UC Santa Cruz. He will assume new leadership responsibilities as the chief of police at Sonoma State University. 

In the weeks to come, additional information will be shared about the plan for recruiting a new police chief. The goal is to develop a process that includes ample stakeholder engagement early on, so that it can shape the recruitment, the candidate profile that meets the needs of our campus community, and ultimately how a new chief will lead the department.

The current dialogue taking place nationally and on our campus regarding policing requires leadership that can engage deeply with the members of the campus community. 

Beginning Dec. 5, Mary Garcia, a lieutenant in the UC Santa Cruz Police Department, will assume the role of interim chief of police. She will continue to seek opportunities for community and law enforcement collaborations to strengthen relationships and build trust. 

Garcia has 23 years of law enforcement experience, and has been at UC Santa Cruz since 2019. She currently oversees the training and investigations units. 

Prior to her arrival on campus, she served in the UC Davis Police Department where she held a number of assignments including patrol, detective, bike patrol, and field training officer. She began her career in the City of Davis Police Department.

A profile and Q-and-A on our news site offers more information about Garcia and the experiences that have guided her approach to community safety.