Deputy Police Chief takes the reins
Northern Illinois University has placed its police chief on administrative leave. Chief Donald Grady and Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan are facing disciplinary proceedings by the university. Deputy Chief of Police Darren Mitchell, a member of the NIU Police Department since 2000 who also serves as executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Planning, was named Sunday to take command of the 38-member force until an acting chief is named.
With Grady away from his desk, NIU now has 10 people on paid leave as the result of legal concerns. The total of the annual salaries is nearly $820,000 for a monthly average of $68,000 for the employees on leave.
“I have every confidence that Darren will perform well in this role of acting police chief,” said Acting Director of Public Safety Bill Nicklas. “Right now the goal is to maintain continuity of operations within the police department to ensure the department continues to serve and protect the campus community.”
Mitchell is a certified emergency medical technician (EMT) and hazardous materials technician (HAZMAT) and has served as a part of the Critical Incidence Response Team, Interpersonal Violence Response Team and Honor Guard.
The actions taken Saturday against Grady and Ramakrishnan resulted from a DeKalb County judge’s determination that evidence was mishandled in the case of former officer Andrew Rifkin, who is charged with sexual assault of a student last year. Grady and Ramakrishnan spoke with two other students who said Rifkin and the student were in a consensual relationship, and she had made the rape charges out of jealousy.
Those interviews, which never made it to prosecutors, might have exonerated Rifkin. The case has not yet gone to trial.
Ramakrishnan was notified that the university intends to fire him for his part in the evidence incident. Any such action must follow procedures outlined under the State Universities Civil Service System first. Chief Grady is on administrative leave, effective immediately, while charges and disciplinary actions are being determined by the university.
Nicklas became Grady’s direct supervisor Friday and spent the day meeting with members of the police department. He said he wants to assure the university community that the campus remains safe during these actions.
Also on Friday, Judge Robbin Stuckert ruled that NIU police had intentionally withheld information in the case against Rifkin: the withheld information will be introduced if the case goes to trial.
President John Peters commented on Saturday’s announcement through a Northern Illinois University news release.
"The findings of the court called into question the integrity of the criminal investigatory process, and we cannot under any circumstances tolerate such clear breaches of contracts, authority and responsibility. Although it pains me greatly that the university had to take these actions today, we must always strive to do the right thing."
Earlier this week, Peters called for Illinois State Police to investigate the NIU Police Department’s alleged mishandling of evidence in Rifkin’s case. Outgoing DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell also said he made the same request of the State Police.
Grady Placed on Administrative Leave in 2009
Don Grady was placed on administrative leave for the first time in 2009 after an editor at the Northern Star campus newspaper accused the Police Chief of threatening him during an interview.
Grady was placed on leave for nearly two months. He was cleared by an outside panel chaired by a former Illinois Supreme Court justice. The review panel was selected by President John Peters and NIU’s senior administration. It found no evidence of misconduct or inappropriate actions.
Grady came to the university in 2001. He was previously chief in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He instituted some changes that did not sit well with officers including 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.