The Illinois State Police van outside the Northern Illinois University police station. | Dan Rozek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 7, 2013 9:52AM
FBI agents and Illinois State Police investigators removed cartons of documents Wednesday from the Northern Illinois University police station during a search stemming from an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
But authorities didn’t disclose what prompted the unannounced search, saying only that it was related to an investigation also involving two other federal agencies, the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The move was “not in response to any public safety concerns,” the FBI said in a statement, while declining to say what investigators hoped to find or why multiple federal agencies were involved.
Without providing specifics, a law enforcement source said there were several different “components” to the investigation.
The NIU police department — and the university — have been involved in a handful of controversies in the past year, though it’s not clear if some or any of them triggered Wednesday’s search.
Long-time Police Chief Donald Grady was fired last month for his handling of rape charges filed in 2011 against former NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin.
The charges against Rifkin initially were dropped by DeKalb County prosecutors last November after a judge ruled NIU police had intentionally withheld evidence that favored Rifkin.
University leaders at that time asked State Police to review the way NIU police handled the case, though the same rape charges were re-filed against Rifkin last month.
In October, eight NIU employees and a former finance official were hit with theft charges for allegedly channeling cash from the sale of university scrap metal into a “coffee fund” used to pay for social events.
Grady last fall had asked the FBI to assist in the “coffee fund” investigation, but also to look at other purported financial irregularities involving university funds, Grady’s attorney, Michael Fox, said Wednesday.
Fox said he was unaware if the search Wednesday was related to Grady’s earlier request for help.
NIU officials declined to comment, except to say they were “cooperating” with the search.