NIU police chief, lieutenant on leave over mishandled evidence

Published: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 4:28 p.m.CDT • Updated: Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012 10:54 p.m.CDT
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Northern Illinois Police Chief Donald Grady was placed on leave Saturday. A DeKalb County judge found that the NIU police hid evidence that would have helped a former officer defend himself against rape charges. (Daily Chronicle file photo)

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University Police Chief Donald Grady and a lieutenant were placed on paid administrative leave Saturday over misplaced evidence in a rape case against one of their former officers.

Grady and Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan both spoke with two NIU students days after a friend of the students accused an NIU police officer of raping her. The two students provided statements indicating officer Andrew Rifkin had an ongoing consensual sexual relationship with the victim, but those statements did not make it to prosecutors until a defense attorney brought them to light.

Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert ruled NIU police intentionally withheld important evidence and decided Friday that, if Rifkin’s case went before a jury, the jurors would hear details about the officers’ actions. If convicted, Rifkin, 24, of Northbrook, faces up to 15 years in prison; probation is not an option.

The actions came a day after NIU officials announced that Bill Nicklas, associate vice president of institutional planning and sustainability, would directly oversee Grady and his department. About 11 a.m. Saturday, Grady was placed on administrative leave pending finalization of disciplinary charges against him, according to a university news release.

Ramakrishnan also learned of the university’s intent to fire him under civil service procedures. Ramakrishnan placed the two witness statements in Rifkin’s internal personnel file and did not create a police report, as is customary, of his interactions with the witnesses. After Grady learned of the evidence mishandling, he took no disciplinary action besides talking with those involved, according to Grady’s court testimony Nov. 2.

NIU President John Peters referenced Stuckert’s findings in Saturday’s 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,” Peters said. “Although it pains me greatly that the university had to take these actions today, we must always strive to do the right thing.”

Grady, who has been the department’s chief since August 2001, makes $205,987.92 annually, NIU spokesman Paul Palian said. Ramakrishnan was hired in April 2002 and makes $92,000 annually, Palian said.

Deputy Chief Darren Mitchell will head the department until officials name an acting chief.

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