USC turns to veteran cop in response to string of scandals


A longtime member of the Costa Mesa Police Department has exchanged his uniform for an iconic cardinal-and-gold “SC” baseball cap, which is visible in his new office at USC.

The former captain for field operations plans to call on his experiences at the police department, which underwent a protracted conflict with previous city leaders, in order to help USC weather a series of serious storms.

Mark Manley, 47, became the director of USC’s new Office of Professionalism and Ethics in September. The office was created partly in response to a string of campus scandals, including inappropriate drug use by the former medical school dean and a campus gynecologist accused of preying on patients. The scandals led to the resignation of university President C.L. Max Nikias.


Launched in September, Manley’s office is a centralized hub assigned with receiving and responding to campus complaints. Manley has met with student and faculty groups, as well as university stakeholders to communicate the office’s goals for oversight and accountability and to introduce new internal systems to receive, review and manage sensitive personnel problems.

“The office is a central hub for complaints and investigations into serious issues like workplace conflict, inappropriate behavior and discrimination,” according to a USC news release about Manley’s appointment.

Manley, a Huntington Beach resident who grew up in Anaheim and graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in criminology, left the Costa Mesa police after 23 years in September.

“That’s where I really learned the sense of customer services, the value of a smile and good interaction,” he said.

The former homicide investigator always envisioned himself working in a university setting, calling his new position “a unique chance to be part of a team to take crisis and turn it into opportunity.”

His time in Costa Mesa might have been ideal preparation.

“I had to learn how to be a transformative leader and adapt to my circumstances,” he said.


Manley said he helped lead in challenging times. Police staffing was reduced a few years ago during a de facto hiring freeze that left staffing below budgeted levels. He was promoted to captain in 2014 — a period of acrimony involving the department, the police union and a majority of the City Council.

“The challenging and difficult years probably provided exponential personal and professional growth for all involved,” Manley said. “Absent the crisis and challenge that we experienced I probably wouldn’t have been prepared, and I’m grateful for that.”

Still, Manley will miss some parts of his life in uniform.

“I’ve eaten fewer doughnuts and drink less coffee,” he quipped, adding that in all seriousness, “I will miss the internal camaraderie from the Police Department and community, but I’ve found that same level of camaraderie here, which wasn’t expected.”

Sclafani writes for Times Community News.