ASU police chief placed on leave while school investigates pro-Palestinian protests

May 10, 2024, 10:57 AM | Updated: 11:55 am

Split panel image of ASU police chief Michael Thompson on the left and an April 2024 pro-Palestinia...

Arizona State University put Police Chief Michael Thompson on leave while it investigates complaints about his behavior during pro-Palestinian protests in April 2024. (Arizona State University and KTAR News Photos)

(Arizona State University and KTAR News Photos)

PHOENIX — Arizona State University has placed the chief of its campus police department on leave while it investigates complaints about his behavior during recent pro-Palestinian protests at the Tempe school.

“ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson has been placed on paid administrative leave, per university policy, pending a review of complaints filed related to his actions on April 26-27, 2024. Assistant Chief John Thompson has been named acting chief,” an ASU spokesperson said in a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“The ASU Office of General Counsel is directing a review of actions surrounding the establishment and removal of an encampment on the Alumni Lawn. Upon completion of the review, ASU will provide an update on its findings.”

Thompson joined ASU’s police force in May 2008 after 20-plus years with the Mesa Police Department, according to his bio on the school’s website. He became chief in 2014.

ASU police chief reportedly removed tents

Arizona’s Family first reported that Michael Thompson had been placed on leave.

According to ABC15, the chief was seen out of uniform cutting and removing tents during the protest. The school told the TV station he was in street clothes because he’d just left a meeting to respond to the April 26 pro-Palestine rally.

The school said demonstrators were warned throughout the day about potential legal, student conduct code and academic consequences.

After the protests were disbanded, ASU announced that over 70 people had been arrested, including 20 of whom were enrolled students.

Students who were arrested we placed on interim suspension.

“The April 26 encampment was more than a protest,” the school said in a May 2 post on its website that has since been removed. “There were multiple violations of university or ABOR [Arizona Board of Regents] policy including tents, overnight presence, creating a university disturbance and being in a reservable space that wasn’t reserved by ASU students, per policy. The unlawful assembly remained well past the 11 p.m. cutoff time established by policy.”

Pro-Palestinian protests held at campuses across country

The ASU incident was just one in a wave of pro-Palestinian protests at campuses across the U.S. Schools have responded with varying degrees of tolerance.

Police at the University of Arizona used tear gas to break up an encampment late Thursday. It was the second time law enforcement deployed chemical irritants while responding to pro-Palestine protests at the Tucson campus.

The Associated Press has documented at least 72 instances since April 18 in which arrests were made at U.S. campus protests. More than 2,800 people have been arrested at 56 colleges and universities, the wire service reported Friday. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from schools and law enforcement agencies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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ASU police chief placed on leave while school investigates pro-Palestinian protests