Alex Yao has been appointed as the UCSB Police Department’s new chief of police.
A current captain in UC Berkeley’s Police Department, Capt. Yao will begin his new role during the early part of the fall quarter. His appointment was announced Wednesday following a nationwide search and “extensive consultation with faculty, staff and students from our campus community,” said Andrea Estrada, spokeswoman for UCSB.
He will work closely with the campus’ Police Advisory Board, chaired by Professors Geoffrey Raymond and Sharon Tettegah. He will also work “the broader campus community to build community partnerships, review policing policies, enhance the transparency of operations, improve interactions with the community, further the mission and values of our University, and create a welcoming and safe living and learning environment,” said Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Garry Mac Pherson in a message to the campus.
He joins the UCSB Police Department with 28 years of service with the University of California, the majority of which has been spent on the Berkeley campus. He began his career in public safety as an undergraduate at Berkeley, serving as a Cal Watch Volunteer and Community Service Officer.
After graduating, Capt. Yao continued serving the university and became the second-highest ranking officer in the department.
UCSB officials praised Capt. Yao for his commitment to community service and engagement, as well as his work in building partnerships with stakeholders to strengthen his department’s relationship with the community.
”We look forward to the experience and leadership he will bring to further the same goals on the UC Santa Barbara campus,” Vice Chancellor Mac Pherson said. “We are grateful to all those community members who participated in the search for our new chief of police and provided valuable input and advice. I specifically want to thank the faculty, staff and student members of the search advisory committee, who, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, remained dedicated to the process that began in winter quarter.”
The appointment was announced 12 days after a News-Press report regarding a sexual assault and battery lawsuit filed against the now-former interim Chief James Brock, UC Regents and other members of the department.
The lawsuit alleges that on Aug. 3, 2019, the plaintiff, who was a 19-year-old student and employee of the university, was getting lunch at the De La Guerra Dining Commons on the UCSB campus when Chief Brock “came up behind her, grabbed her buttocks, slid his hand up her back and whispered in her ear” while in uniform, according to the complaint.
When reached for comment, Ms. Estrada issued the following statement to the News-Press:
“We are aware of the complaint in which an employee tripped and fell into another employee in a busy dining commons. Both an external investigator for the University and an external law enforcement agency conducted separate investigations of the claims when they first arose. The multiple investigations did not substantiate the allegations. The University will allow the process to move forward and we trust the court system will reach the correct conclusion.”
As pointed out in a recent report by the group Gauchos 4 Transparency, the most recent litigation marks the seventh lawsuit filed against UCSBPD.
The report by the group of UCSB students calling for accountability and transparency at the university noted Capt. Yao’s community outreach, including when he brought 4,500 toys to victims of the 2018 Camp Fire. The report also outlined several “less uplifting” instances surrounding the captain’s past.
A 2010 incident involved Capt. Yao, then a lieutenant, acting as the UCPD spokesperson after campus police violated the Clearly Act, which requires college and universities to keep a public log recording all crimes within 60 days.
Capt. Yao has also been involved with the Occupy Cal protests and has been linked to reports of other violent altercations in 2009 and 2011, according to the report.
He has also been named in two lawsuits, including one in September 2017 as part of a First and Fourteenth Amendment case which involved campus administration preventing conservative pundits David Horowitz and Ann Coulter from giving talks on campus.
A second lawsuit, which was dismissed with prejudice in April 2020, accused the UC Board of Regents and Capt. Yao of creating a hostile work environment.
“Changing the leadership will not change the culture at UCPD. It has failed countless times and will continue to. This is an issue with everyone within UCPD. UCSB did not even publicly address the previous lawsuits. All I have received from administration is that ‘we are deeply upset about this situation as well.’ These are the people who can actually enact administrative change. But instead, let’s just appoint someone new and call it a day,” said Izzy Mitchell, President of G4T.