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Tom Phillips named new NIU police chief

Northern Illinois University's next police chief will be Tom Phillips, the deputy police chief at the University of Chicago.
Northern Illinois University's next police chief will be Tom Phillips, the deputy police chief at the University of Chicago.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University’s next police chief will be Tom Phillips, the deputy police chief at the University of Chicago.

Phillips, who also worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department from 1996 to 2012, will start Sept. 16 with an annual salary of $160,000. NIU officials announced Phillips’ hiring Wednesday.

“We conducted a nationwide search for the new chief and believe Tom Phillips will be an excellent fit for NIU,” NIU President Douglas Baker said in a news release. “He is a talented, experienced and proven leader who is committed to campus safety, crime prevention and student success.”

Phillips replaces Donald Grady, who was fired Feb. 19 for mismanaging an investigation of an NIU police officer accused of raping a student while off-campus and off-duty.

In February, Grady, who is black, alleged race was a factor in the disciplinary action against him, pointing out that none of the white defendants in the “coffee fund” scrap metal recycling cases were fired.
Grady, the university’s police chief for 11 years, made $205,987 annually when he was fired. NIU officials advertised the latest job opening as paying between $150,000 and $175,000 a year.

The nationwide search, conducted by Voorhees Associates and Alexander Weiss Consulting, included 79 applicants. The field was narrowed to four finalists in July.

In the second week of August, each of the finalists spent a day on campus. They were interviewed by seven groups, representing students, faculty, local law enforcement, staff, diversity centers or the president’s senior cabinet. They all also had town-hall style meetings open to full-time NIU police department employees.

Those involved in the interview process repeatedly said Phillips seemed very approachable and open, said Bill Nicklas, NIU’s vice president for public safety and community relations. Nicklas expects Phillips will lead by example with integrity and commitment to diversity.

“He’s very familiar with diverse populations,” Nicklas said. “He’s very comfortable with diverse cultures.”

When he starts, Nicklas expects Phillips will spend time meeting employees, both inside the department and in other university units, and local law enforcement leaders. Phillips thinks his background will be a good match for local community policing efforts, according to the NIU news release.

“My experiences on a community policing team shortly after graduating from the police academy taught me the value of building partnerships with the community and how collaborative approaches to problem-solving is highly effective in reducing crime,” Phillips said in the news release. “I have carried this philosophy with me throughout my career and believe it will bring new value to the already strong community policing program at NIU.”

Interim Police Chief Darren Mitchell did not apply for the permanent job, Nicklas said. Mitchell will become commander of emergency management and community policing, Nicklas said. NIU’s police department has 61 full-time officers, 11 full-time telecommunicators, 15 full-time guards and 18 part-time residence hall attendants.

About Tom Phillips
• Age: 44
• Family: Wife and three children
• Experience:
2012 to present University of Chicago Police Department
1996 to 2012 University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department
1987 to 1995 Military Police Corps

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