University of Arizona’s newly appointed Chief Safety Officer Steve Patterson on recent departures

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 10:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The University of Arizona announced the chief of the University of Arizona Police Department, Paula Balafas, and University Provost Leisl Folks stepped down from their roles on Monday, May 1.

The move comes in the wake of an independent campus safety report commissioned by the university following the death of professor Dr. Thomas Mexiner last year.

Steve Patterson, the newly appointed Chief Safety Officer at the University of Arizona, tells 13 News these changes, along with others expected to occur soon, are for the security and safety of those on campus.

“I wish Paula all the best in her future endeavors,” Patterson said.

Balafas was the school’s first female police chief, who has been with UAPD since early 2022.

According to Dr. Lelia Hudson, the Chair of the Faculty Senate at the UA, these changes are welcomed but should have been sooner.

“It’s a tragedy that it took the murder of one of us to start this long overdue conversation about how we keep each other sage and how we are mutually responsible for each other.”

Dr. Hudson said staff members are optimistic about the changes and feel the university is moving in the right direction.

“After this last very traumatic year, the prelude and the follow-through from the tragic murder of our colleague Dr. Thomas Meixner,” Dr. Hudson tells 13 News. “It’s been very clear that we need organizational and policy changes.”

Chris Olson being named the new chief for the UAPD and starting a nationwide search for a new university provost are part of those changes.

Olson, who is a 31-year law enforcement veteran, will serve as interim chief during the search for Balafas’ replacement.

“What we are not looking for is a militarized, securitized campus,” Hudson said. “As you know over-policing can be dangerous and traumatizing to our most marginalized community members.”

Patterson said the university is in the process of making the campus safer adding security is a top priority.

“There are certainly some physical updates that the students will be seeing come this fall,” Patterson said. “There will also be training opportunities there some more information we push out to be sure everybody is as safe as we can be.”

Patterson looks forward to what Olson will bring to the table.

“As somebody who used to be a University of Arizona police officer and an adjunct professor for the University of Arizona he is already very familiar with the campus,” Patterson said.

Hudson said with the right communication and respect going forward it will only make the university better.

“This isn’t unique to us,” Dr. Hudson, “We hope we can be part of the solution creating a template that other universities can follow.”

Patterson said students, faculty, and staff can expect many more changes regarding campus security. He said these changes are important in moving the university forward.

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