University of Washington Police Chief John Vinson will be leaving the position to focus on his role as associate vice president for student life, the university announced Friday.

The change comes after a period of tension within the department, as officers submitted a letter of no confidence in Vinson’s leadership abilities to university officials in September, launching an independent review of the department’s operations.

The decision to split the two roles and find a new police chief was “mutual,” university spokesman Victor Balta said.

Vice President for Student Life Denzil Suite announced the change in an email sent to staff.

“This position has a significant scope of responsibility, with the Chief’s role dominating John’s time and inadvertently narrowing his contributions to the Division of Student Life as a whole,” Suite said in the email.

Vinson, who has served as UW police chief since 2009, will leave the position in May. He will focus on campus and community safety in his role as associate vice president, examining the university’s overall security and exploring fundraising related to safety programs and services, Suite said.


Deputy Chief Randy West will serve as interim chief until the hiring process for a replacement is complete.

In a letter to university leadership in September, six university patrol sergeants, one former sergeant and one lieutenant alleged that Vinson fostered an atmosphere of “hostility, retaliation and unethical behavior.”

The officers claimed Vinson hired officers with “questionable” backgrounds, failed to respond to citizen concerns with officer behavior and didn’t equip the department with enhanced body armor and other equipment in case of an active shooter. It said morale was low and that the department was inadequately staffed.

Vinson responded to the concerns in a letter to Suite, in which he said he believed increased accountability measures were what may have triggered the complaint, along with recent contract negotiations. He said patrol supervisors had resisted the measures, which created hostility among officers and some supervisors.

Vinson said the department continued to meet standards and that he believed the overall atmosphere was positive, although turnover continued to be an issue. He said the department had improved its recruitment and hiring strategies and that all complaints are reviewed in-line with procedure.

He said the department requires active-shooter training and that adjustments would be made to the budget so active-shooter tactical equipment could be purchased. Balta said the equipment had been deployed.

Suite and President Ana Mari Cauce announced an independent review of the police department by a consultant in November; it is not yet complete, Balta said.

The review is being led by Kathryn Olson, who served six years as civilian director of the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability.