FBI probe into NIU police not over, official says

Published: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT
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DeKALB – Authorities were interested in former NIU Police Chief Donald Grady and the reporting of crime statistics – among other things – when they raided the Northern Illinois University police station in March, a campus leader said Thursday during an interview about the school’s new police chief.

Bill Nicklas, NIU’s vice president for public safety and community relations, said the investigation by the Illinois State Police, FBI and the U.S. Education Department is ongoing.

Nicklas said he did not think the investigation would hamper new NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips when he takes over Sept. 16. Nicklas
cautioned that it was unfair to say the entire police department had been under investigation.

“They were investigating what they thought were concerning allegations both about the former chief and about certain aspects of the operation under his tenure,” Nicklas said. “Where we are is uncertain at this point, because we’re not in charge of directing that investigation.”

The FBI search encompassed years worth of police records, and NIU police sometimes have to call to ask for documents related to ongoing investigations, Nicklas said. Federal authorities warned university officials at the time that their investigation would be lengthy, he said.

An FBI spokesman did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

“We intend to cooperate as we have been cooperating,” Nicklas said. “But in terms of what the job of the chief is, it won’t be affecting that day to day.”

Grady, who served as chief for 11 years, was fired Feb. 19 for mismanaging an investigation of an NIU police officer accused of raping a student while off-campus and off-duty, according to NIU documents.

Michael Fox, attorney for Grady, cautioned that the search warrant was so broad it would be difficult to determine who was a target of the investigation. So far, Grady has not received any information suggesting he did anything wrong, Fox said.

“Despite the incredible scope of this search, we know of no taint or allegation pertaining to the former chief,” Fox said.

Although it was very broad, the search warrant specifically requested all police records relating to the low-income Eden’s Garden housing development in DeKalb, which former NIU chief of operations Eddie Williams owns. Williams took a leave of absence after the FBI search, returning to his post for 11 days before retiring May 31.

“There were a number of focuses,” Nicklas said. “One is in the area of the reporting of crime statistics through our Clery responsibilities. They are proceeding so far as I know.”

Nicklas is referring to the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal law that requires universities to provide information about crime in and around campuses. Enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, the act is tied to the university’s participation in federal student financial aid programs, according to the Clery Center for Security on Campus’ website, www.clerycenter.org.

NIU has been found in violation of the act before. In a Feb. 11, 2005, letter addressed to former NIU President John Peters, the U.S. Department of Education wrote that NIU was in violation of the act on two counts: failure to accurately report arrests and referrals for campus disciplinary action for liquor law violations, and failure to properly maintain a daily crime log.

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