GCU’s newest ‘coach’ is director of public safety
By Karen Fernau
GCU News Bureau
Joe Yahner retired last year as chief of the Phoenix Police Department with plans for a second career as a teacher and coach.
“I always liked coaching my kids’ teams, working with young people, and that’s what I planned to do after retiring as chief,” he said.
Today, Yahner is fulfilling his goal of working with students. But instead of in the classroom or on the baseball diamond, he’ll be working with 19,000-plus students at Grand Canyon University to keep their campus safe.
Yahner, 53, recently took over as GCU’s director of public safety. And, whether in GCU’s laboratories, dorms, coffee shops or along the sprawling network of walkways, he’s determined to learn as much as he can about their lives, their concerns.
“I plan to be a part of campus life by attending games, events and by spending time with students, faculty and staff on campus,” said the head of GCU’s 170-member public safety force.
Yahner, who grew up in Phoenix as what he proudly calls a “West Sider,” brings more than 30 years of law enforcement know-how to the University.
As Commander Charles Consolian of the Cactus Park Precinct in Phoenix said, “He takes a genuine interest in the lives of others. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. He leads by example and wants to make a positive difference for the community he serves.”
Consolian is looking forward to working with Yahner on GCU’s five-year, $1 million partnership with Phoenix police to reduce crime and poverty in the neighborhoods circling GCU.
“We will work together on a weekly basis to positively impact the issues of campus as well as the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses,” he said.
A Phoenix native whose father and brother also were Phoenix police officers, Yahner has worked in patrol, on specialty assignments and as interim chief before becoming police chief from 2014-16.
While in the Homeland Security Division, Yahner was in charge of policing the Super Bowl, NBA All-Star Game and the launch of the Valley’s light rail system.
Phoenix Assistant Chief Harry Markley considers Yahner one of the most versatile, knowledgeable officers he’s ever worked with.
“He’s one of the smartest guys in policing, and he has tremendous drive. I knew when he left the Phoenix department he would go back to work. It’s in his DNA that he contribute,” Markley said.
Markley and Yahner were classmates at Washington High School in Phoenix and fellow officers in Phoenix for decades. From Markley’s vantage point, GCU scored “a great catch” when hiring his longtime friend.
During his first few days on the job, Yahner wandered campus with a map in hand. His initial impression? “GCU is a fast-growing university with good programs already in place. It’s a safe campus, and I will make sure it stays that way.”
One way the father of three young adult children plans to accomplish that goal is by listening and learning.
“I want to hear from everyone – students to staff. What issues are important to them? I want our department to meet their needs,” said Yahner, whose academic credentials include an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and a master’s from University of Phoenix.
In his free time, Yahner likes to travel, hike and go to the ocean or beach with his wife, Monica. He also enjoys spending time with other family and working out.
And, yes, he already has become a GCU sports fan.
“Their teams are amazing,” he said. “I can’t wait to go to the games.”
Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.