NIU police chief disciplined, another fired for alleged misconduct in rape investigation
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO AND DAN ROZEK Staff Reporters November 10, 2012 6:09PM
Updated: November 11, 2012 6:06PM
The chief of the Northern Illinois University police force was placed on administrative leave Saturday and one of his chief deputies will likely be fired in continuing fallout from a botched investigation of an officer accused of sexually assaulting a university student.
NIU Police Chief Donald Grady, 59, was placed on leave as the school finalizes disciplinary charges against him, school officials announced in a statement Saturday. A deputy chief will run the department in his absence.
Meanwhile, Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan, who is accused of withholding details of the probe, was also notified that administrative proceedings are underway to fire him.
The moves by the school come after a Dekalb County judge ruled Friday that the trial of former NIU police officer, Andrew Rifkin, can continue despite the fact that department investigators withheld evidence favorable to him.
“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,” NIU President John Peters said in Saturday’s statement.
Rifkin, who was a police officer at the time of the investigation, was charged last November after an NIU student alleged he had sexually assaulted her.
At the time NIU police interviewed two friends of the student who said the alleged victim had talked about being involved in a consensual relationship with Rifkin.
But Ramakrishnan, who interviewed the students, never turned over those statements to prosecutors or Rifkin’s attorney. Ramakrishnan testified at a hearing last week that he had inadvertently put the statements in Rifkin’s personnel file, rather than turning them over to prosecutors.
DeKalb County Judge Robbin Stuckert said in a ruling last week she didn’t believe that explanation, instead concluding there was a “purposeful hiding of information.”
But on Friday she said the actions weren’t damaging enough to warrant throwing out the charge against Rifkin, who has since been fired.
Initially school officials indicated Grady would remain as chief, though the school did appoint a new “acting director of public safety” to increase oversight
Additionally, the school has asked the State Police to review and assist NIU police with ongoing investigations. That effort is intended to “reassure the public that these inquiries are without conflict of interest,” Peters said in a statement.
Grady has served as NIU police chief since 2001, though his tenure has been marked with drama and controversy.
Grady was praised for his actions on Feb. 14, 2008 when a gunman opened fire during a class at Cole Hall on the school’s DeKalb campus.
The chief sprinted across campus and personally led the first group of police officers inside the auditorium to confront gunman Steven Kazmierczak, though the former NIU grad student already had killed himself.
Five students died in the attack, but students and faculty praised his quick action and strong presence in the days after the shooting spree.
In 2009, though, the chief was suspended with pay for 30 days after the student newspaper accused him of trying to bribe an editor to write a positive story about a university police officer.
But Grady was reinstated after a university probe found no evidence of misconduct.