Northern Illinois University President John G. Peters updated the university community Friday, March 8, regarding recent events at NIU.
Members of the NIU Community,
I am sure all of you were as surprised as I was to receive the news that the FBI and the State Police arrived, along with two other federal agencies, at the NIU police department Wednesday morning to serve a search warrant and remove a large number of paper and electronic police department files dating back to January 2005.
That these issues are causing the campus community distress is understandable. However, NIU must always be able to sustain external and independent review and investigation of any aspect of our operation. It is now clear that once the university comes through this trial, our university and, more specifically, our police department will be stronger, more transparent and more effective.
In November 2012, I appointed Bill Nicklas as acting director of Public Safety. Bill and others are rebuilding the leadership team within the NIU police department; they have made great strides over the last three months to enhance partnerships within the university community as well as with other law enforcement agencies at the local, county and state levels. The commitment to the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff and guests remains the NIU police department’s top priority.
Last fall, I sent a formal, written request to the director of the Illinois State Police (ISP) that, among other things, requested ISP assistance in reviewing NIU law enforcement protocols and procedures. In his position as acting director of Public Safety, Bill also reached out to the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) for guidance in developing best-practices and protocols for a university police agency. The reorganization and reassessment of the police department is under way, and progress is evident.
The search warrant issued to the university yesterday was primarily focused around police department records and information. It is troubling to be on the receiving end of a search warrant and investigation by any law enforcement agency, as it is impossible at this early stage to determine what specific actions may have occurred that necessitate such a response. Therefore, I have instructed all administrators and staff to cooperate fully with any law enforcement requests for information and to be forthcoming.
I remain frustrated by the length of time it takes to resolve these issues, not only on the investigative side, but also within the adjudicatory process. Given the breadth of the search warrant, it is difficult to be certain of the specific information the authorities are reviewing. This uncertainty makes it difficult to respond precisely and move forward expeditiously. I am encouraged by the changes that have already been made in the police department including reworking their operating standards and protocols and look forward to the next step in this initiative that includes an external validation process.
While this is a particularly uncertain time for our NIU community and one in which we must endure this external scrutiny, we will get through this and become an even better university. Trials bring strength, personal and institutional introspection and the opportunity for rebuilding.
John G. Peters