By John Brown
Arizona Summer Wildcat July 30, 1997
Police chief heading to Mt. Graham substationUniversity police Chief Mike Thomas announced Friday he will step down as head of the department to become the commander of the Mount Graham substation.
"The opportunity was there, so it seemed like a good time to leave," Thomas said. "Twenty-seven years of being a police chief is long enough."
Thomas was police chief at the University of Kansas before joining the University of Arizona Police Department 14 years ago.
He said several aspects of law enforcement have changed during his 32 years of service that have made heading a department more difficult.
"It's not like it used to be," he said.
Public criticism of police, lawsuits against departments, and problems with employees have made the job a constant challenge, he said.
In addition, he said the stress involved with the job has resulted in many of his peers to suffer from health problems such as heart attacks and ulcers.
"I wanted to get out before it was too late," Thomas said.
Thomas said he is looking forward to commanding the Mount Graham post and the freedom the new position will allow.
"It's easy to get chained up behind a desk," he said.
Thomas will manage four officers and two K-9 officers and coordinate efforts with the State Department, Department of Justice and the Graham County Sheriff's Department.
Thomas had previously kept in contact with the officers by facsimile and phone communication, which he said was complicated and not as efficient.
The Mount Graham station was established to protect the UA telescopes on the mountain and to control environmentalist protest, he said.
However, he said it has been about two years since any demonstrations have occurred. The officers spend the majority of their time responding to medical emergencies, motor vehicle assists, and trespassing problems.
The university will first attempt to look within the department to find a replacement for Thomas. If a candidate for the position is not found, it will begin a nationwide search for a new chief, said Julius Parker, associate vice president business affairs.
Parker said Thomas wanted to give someone else a chance at the position.
"He has done a superb job," Parker said. "It's a high-profile job where there's always something going on, and I think he might have got burned out."
Thomas will end his tenure as police chief on Aug. 11.