Northern Illinois University named a new police chief today as it continues efforts to move beyond the turmoil in the campus police department last school year.
Tom Phillips, who has been deputy chief with University of Chicago's police department, will take over at NIU as the FBI and other federal and state agencies continue their investigation of the university, including its police department. The school's longtime police chief, Donald Grady, was fired in February.
In a statement announcing the new police chief, NIU officials emphasized Baker's "ethical leadership" and the "high value" he places on "cooperation with all of the academic, operational and administrative units of the university, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies."
Grady's dismissal came after he was put on paid leave last year over his department's alleged misconduct in a high-profile rape case, and five months after he asked the FBI for help investigating university finances.
In March, the FBI executed a search warrant at the police station and interviewed officers, though it's unclear if the FBI involvement was related to Grady's request. During the past few months, the university has sent thousands of pages of documents in response to FBI subpoenas -- documents related to the police department and other areas of the campus. University officials have said they do not know the target of the investigation.
NIU officials had a roller-coaster relationship with Grady, who had led the police force since 2001. While he was praised for saving lives during the 2008 campus shootings that left five students dead, he also was criticized for his sometimes prickly personality and refusal to share information about investigations.
When he was fired earlier this year, NIU officials said it was after a review of the department's handling of a rape case involving one of his former officers. Grady's dismissal letter states that he likely "ordered, encouraged and/or condoned" the withholding of evidence that could have cleared the NIU officer accused of rape. Grady's attorney has said the allegations are "baseless."
Phillips served in the Military Police Corps both in the U.S. and overseas from 1987 to 1995, when he moved to Chicago and briefly served as a special investigator in the city's Office of the Inspector General.
He worked in UIC's police department from 1996 to 2012 before going to U. of C.
At NIU, he said he plans on "working closely with the students, faculty and staff for their input, ideas, and support in making constructive changes in NIU police service," according to a statement.
Bill Nicklas, vice president for Public Safety and Community Relations at NIU, said Phillips will "lead by example with fairness, consistency, unquestioned integrity and a commitment to diversity."
"Safety and security in and around the campus community requires partnerships and good will," Nicklas said in a statement. "Openness to different points of view is a prerequisite to the trust and respect that are at the root of such partnerships."
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