Grady Out As NIU Police Chief

Feb 20, 2013

Former NIU Police Chief Donald Grady
Credit NIU

Northern Illinois University Police Chief Donald Grady has been fired.

Grady was put on administrative leave late last year for the way he and his department handled evidence in a rape charge brought against one of his officers. 

In a letter dated Tuesday, Feb. 19, from NIU Acting Director of Public Safety Bill Nicklas, Grady is told his contract is being terminated because of his mismanagement of the case against former NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin. Specifically, Grady is accused of not handing over evidence and not properly supervising his department.

Rifkin was accused of raping a student while he was an officer with NIU’s police department. The case was later dismissed by a DeKalb County judge who said the department intentionally withheld information that would have cleared Rifkin. Rifkin has since sued Grady and the university.

In the dismissal letter to Grady, Nicklas writes, “… your credibility and the credibility of the Department has been compromised to the extent the University believes termination is appropriate.”

The university held a pre-disciplinary meeting with Grady on Feb. 1. Grady also presented further information in his own defense to the university on Feb. 3.  Nicklas says he reviewed all of that information, plus files about the Rifkin case and reports from a private investigator, before deciding to dismiss the police chief.

“Based on all the evidence, and consistent with the court’s findings, I do not believe there was merely a mistaken withholding of evidence on the part of the Department in the Rifkin case. Moreover, I do not find credible your claim that you were not involved in the purposeful withholding of exculpatory evidence.”

Grady’s attorney Michael Fox told the Chicago Tribune that he plans to appeal the dismissal and can prove the allegations against Grady are baseless.

Grady has been Chief of Police since 2001. He is best known for his actions and public appearances after the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings in a classroom at NIU, where five students and the gunman died. But his tenure at NIU also has been full of controversy.

He was suspended in 2009 while the university, an independent panel, and Illinois State Police reviewed allegations by a student newspaper editor that Grady had threatened and attempted to bribe him. Grady was cleared of criminal charges in that case.

In 2010, Grady and his department led the investigation into the disappearance and murder of NIU freshman Toni Keller. The case was soon turned over to the DeKalb County Major Case Squad, headed by then-DeKalb police chief Bill Feithen.

Before he came to NIU, Grady was police chief in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He instituted changes there that included longer shifts, no more free coffee on the job, and a ban on bolo ties. Officers responded with an overwhelming no-confidence vote in Grady.

Grady’s policing experience also includes work for the United Nations Police Task Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last year, he published a book about community policing called “The Injustice of Justice.”

As NIU’s police chief, Grady was earning more than $206,000 per year. That means the university paid him more than $50,000 during his suspension while reviewing the case. Since November, Darren Mitchell has served as acting police chief and former DeKalb and Sycamore city manager Bill Nicklas has taken on the role of acting director of public safety for the university. Nicklas says NIU police have since strengthened their relationship with other local law enforcement agencies and have increased patrols on campus.

“The men and women of the NIU Police Department remain devoted to our longstanding commitment to community policing. Their shared focus is engagement in campus living and learning spaces, and cooperative patrolling in our neighborhoods.”