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Our View: Time for NIU PD to move on

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

At last, Northern Illinois University’s police force can move on.

The decision this week by Bill Nicklas, acting director of public safety at NIU, to remove Donald Grady as police chief has been a long time coming.

More than three years ago – while Grady was on administrative leave after an incident with a student journalist – we said in this space that we had lost confidence in Grady’s ability to do his job to the standards the university and public deserve.

Officials at NIU have come to the same conclusion at last, after Grady spent more than three months in another stint on paid leave, this time in connection with his department’s mishandling of evidence in its investigation of rape allegations against one of its own former officers, Andrew Rifkin.

Grady’s response to the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings on the NIU campus was laudable. Since then, however, he virtually has been an invisible man. Not only was he rarely seen or heard from publicly, but the NIU police were criticized for failing to cooperate with other police departments in DeKalb and DeKalb County at a time when crime has become a key concern for residents.

Residents and students deserve better.

Grady finally was compelled to speak publicly Nov. 2 in DeKalb County Court, when he was called to testify about his department’s failure to turn over witness statements that would have helped Rifkin defend himself against the allegations.

When asked if he had disciplined anyone for failing to turn over evidence in the case, Grady said he had not.

“I did talk to them,” Grady said. “Some people think that might be as stern as a termination.”

Others thought it was a sign of a police chief who was out of touch. Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert called the NIU police’s failure to turn over the evidence a flagrant violation of required police procedure. Former State’s Attorney Clay Campbell called the NIU force “a rogue police department.”

With Grady as chief, the NIU police would continue to suffer from credibility problems.

Grady’s salary of $205,987 a year seems sky-high, especially when compared with, say, the City of DeKalb police chief’s salary of $117,000 a year.

It is time for NIU to move on to someone who will be more effective as a leader and more affordable for taxpayers.

We are pleased that NIU officials finally summoned the courage to take this step in the wake of the Rifkin case. It appears Grady is preparing to fight his dismissal. In this case, it is a fight worth having for the university’s sake.

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