Former Phoenix police chief joins GCU as Director of Public Safety
Grand Canyon University has hired former City of Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner to become its Director of Public Safety.
Yahner spent more than 30 years in the Phoenix Police Department, working his way up through the ranks before becoming police chief from 2014-16. He also served as interim chief from March 2011 to May 2012.
“Director Yahner comes to GCU with impeccable credentials as a longtime officer and leader in the Phoenix Police Department,” said Brian Mueller, president of GCU. “We already have an incredibly safe campus with very low crime statistics, which is attractive to families. Bringing in someone like Director Yahner further emphasizes our commitment to create the safest environment possible for our students, faculty and staff as we continue to grow.”
Yahner was part of the Phoenix Police Department since 1985 before retiring last year. He revamped the department’s Family Investigation Bureau, improved community engagement and created a structured training program for officers. He was promoted to commander in 1999, became assistant chief in 2007 and executive assistant chief in 2009. While working in the Homeland Security Division, he oversaw the department’s efforts at the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game and the opening of the light rail. His father and brother were also Phoenix police officers.
“As a native of Phoenix, this is a great opportunity for me to continue to work in the city that I love,” Yahner said. “I have always been impressed with GCU as an organization because of its commitment to the community, its willingness to give back and the steps it has taken to improve the quality of life on the west side of Phoenix. The University is viewed in very high esteem because of the people who work there and the things they do in the community.”
As Director of Public Safety, Yahner will oversee both aspects of GCU’s 170-member public safety force – a police department with officers certified by the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training and a public safety division with officers who maintain security at posts throughout campus.
“Both the police officers and non-sworn officers will report to me,” said Yahner, who will join the University on May 30. “We will work together to provide a holistic team approach and create an environment that is as safe as possible for students, faculty and staff. We want to provide the best customer service and continue the strong safety standards the University has established as we move forward.”
GCU’s Public Safety Department utilizes a multi-layered approach to security that includes an eight-foot fence surrounding the University, roving security patrols, guard stations at every entrance, identification checks before entering campus, bag checks at GCU Arena events, blue light phones throughout campus to report emergencies, tip lines, emergency text notifications, escort programs, 24/7 dispatch services, video technologies and training for active-shooter scenarios.
In addition, GCU maintains a dry campus, which further demonstrates the commitment to a safe environment for the campus community.
In addition to having its own certified police force on campus, GCU is in the midst of a five-year, $1 million partnership with the Phoenix Police Department to reduce crime in the areas surrounding the University — between Interstate 17 and 43rd Avenue and from Bethany Home to Indian School roads. The Neighborhood Safety Initiative pays for overtime hours of Phoenix police officers each week to not only combat crime but also deal with bigger problems ranging from poverty and homelessness to gangs and drugs.