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NIU names Tom Phillips new police chief

August 28, 2013
Thomas Phillips

Thomas Phillips

NIU President Doug Baker has named Tom Phillips as NIU’s new chief of police, effective Monday, Sept. 16.

Phillips, who has been deputy chief with the University of Chicago Police Department, has a strong reputation for community policing and inspiring excellence through ethical leadership.

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

Phillips brings 25 years of police experience to the campus. He served in the Military Police Corps stateside and overseas between 1987 and 1995 before moving to Chicago, where he briefly served as a special investigator for the City of Chicago’s Office of the Inspector General.

Philips joined the University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department in 1996. From 1996 to 2012, he progressed through a series of more-responsible supervisory posts, attaining the position of criminal investigations supervisor with a dual role as director of police and security operations for the UIC Forum in 2011.

He then transitioned to the University of Chicago as a commander in 2012 and was appointed deputy chief in 2013.

Phillips said that his first order of business will be to assess day-to-day operations and learn as much as he can about his new team and their ideas to improve upon service to the university community.

“I plan on working closely with the students, faculty and staff for their input, ideas and support in making constructive changes in NIU police service,” he said. “Additionally, I will reach out to local law enforcement leaders to confirm our commitment to proactive partnerships in the surrounding communities.”

NIU police carsBill Nicklas, vice president for Public Safety and Community Relations at NIU, is enthusiastic about the qualities that Phillips will bring to his new role at Northern Illinois.

“Tom has all the experience and skill sets we require of our police chief,” Nicklas said. “He will lead by example with fairness, consistency, unquestioned integrity and a commitment to diversity. For his entire career, Tom has been recognized for being open-minded and accessible, both to the people he has supervised and the people he has served.”

“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 are highly effective in reducing crime,” Phillips said. “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.”

Like Nicklas, Phillips places a high value on accountability and cooperation with all of the academic, operational and administrative units of the university, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Safety and security in and around the campus community require partnerships and good will,” Nicklas added. “Openness to different points of view is a prerequisite to the trust and respect that are at the root of such partnerships.”

Phillips was selected after a nationwide search conducted by Voorhees Associates L.L.C., in association with Alexander Weiss Consulting. The search firm received 79 applications from qualified individuals and worked with a campus-based search committee to narrow the field to four finalists in late July.

University Police headquartersDuring the second week of August, each of the finalists participated in a series of all-day interviews with seven stakeholder groups representing students, faculty, local law enforcement, NIU operating and professional staffs, NIU diversity centers and the president’s senior cabinet.

In the evening of their interview day, each finalist participated in a town-hall style meeting open to all full-time employees of the NIU Police and Public Safety Department.

The NIU Department of Police and Public Safety has 61 full-time sworn officers, 11 full-time telecommunicators, 15 full-time guards, 18 part-time residence hall attendants, numerous part-time student Huskie Patrol employees and a Late Night Ride Service.

The department immerses its sworn officers in the patterns of student life in NIU’s residence halls, classroom buildings and recreational facilities.

In addition, the department has recently forged strong partnerships with the DeKalb Police Department, Sycamore Police Department and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office to keep the neighborhoods surrounding the NIU campus safe and secure.

“I think that my experiences living abroad while serving in Panama and Puerto Rico really prepared me well for working in diverse university communities, and I am energized by the diverse university setting at Northern Illinois University and the DeKalb community,” said Phillips, who is fluent in Spanish. “I look forward to getting started.”