John Thomas, UCLA’s interim police chief since December 2022, has been selected to permanently lead the university’s police department, UCLA Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck announced today.
“I look forward to working with Chief Thomas in the years ahead as he leads our campus safety team,” said Beck, who also thanked the members of the campus police department “for their commitment and dedication to the safety of our Bruin community.”
Thomas is known for his collaborative and community-oriented approach to public safety and for his commitment to mentoring law enforcement and civic leaders. Prior to coming to UCLA, he served as special advisor to the senior vice president for administration at the University of Southern California. He was the USC Department of Public Safety’s executive director and chief of police from 2013 to 2022, assistant chief from 2009 to 2013, and a police captain from 2006 to 2009.
Thomas also served as the University of the District of Columbia’s deputy chief of police and emergency management from 2005 to 2006 and in various roles with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he rose to the level of lieutenant.
While attending UCLA from 1980 to 1984, Thomas was editor-in-chief of the Black student publication NOMMO and worked at the ASUCLA bookstore. He suspended his education during his senior year to join the LAPD and eventually completed his degree at Mount St. Mary’s University. He also earned a master’s degree in executive leadership from USC.
Thomas is a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Police Museum, the FBI National Academy Associates and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
He was chosen from among an experienced pool of candidates by a search committee that included UCLA faculty, administrators and students and representatives of local and state law enforcement.
How John Thomas corrected the record for 2 Black LAPD officers
UCLA’s new police chief is not only a veteran of nearly four decades in law enforcement but an accomplished amateur historian as well. Over the course of his career, he has had a few important opportunities to marry those two passions, correcting longstanding errors in how the LAPD had recorded the stories of two Black officers from decades earlier.
As an LAPD sergeant, Thomas was tasked with finding photos reflecting the department’s diverse history to adorn the walls near Police Chief Bernand Parks’ office.
“I became fascinated by the photos of all the individuals I found reflecting that diversity,” said Thomas. “But for obvious reasons, I felt a stronger connection to those Black officers who laid the foundation for my career of service. Sadly, not much was documented about their careers, so I felt compelled to help tell their stories.”