Police chief looks for ways to work with city


NIU Department of Police

NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips is set to retire in mid-April.

By Rachel Scaman

NIU’s new police chief will meet with DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery to brainstorm ideas on working together.

Tom Phillips, the campus’ new police chief, had his first day of duty Monday and has been laying out his plans for the university police department. One of the ways Phillips plans to control the crime rate is using a CompStat model, a method which uses statistics for crime analysis.

“It shows us how, where and when crime is happening,” Phillips said. “It also tells us who is committing the crimes and who is being victimized.”

Phillips said he plans to use this method to target hot spots and problem areas where crime is being committed.

“Instead of using traditional methods, we’re actually going to be digging a little deeper and look at what’s going on in this area and then you address it,” Phillips said. “I plan to communicate with the community and let them know that this is actually a safe campus.”

Phillips plans to bring his experience and input from the community and from law enforcement agencies together and see if there’s anything NIU police can do better.

Phillips has worked as a police officer at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and said he is very comfortable in the university environment and community.

“I look at this campus and I see a lot of opportunities here, in light of the good and bad publicity the university and the department has received over the past couple of years,” Phillips said. “I know that anything negative is not reflective of the work that the men and women do on this campus everyday.”

Phillips said a big part of why he wanted to work at NIU was to help present a positive side.

“I wanted to show that good things happen everyday, not only in this department but also at this university,” he said.

Phillips said he plans for the NIU Police Department to work with the DeKalb Police Department to make the community safe. NIU officers are already patrolling an extended jurisdiction north of NIU.

Phillips said he looks forward to meeting with Lowery and brainstorming some ideas so their departments may collaborate.

“We are ready, willing and able to work together, and I think it’s going to be a huge success,” Phillips said.

Phillips said he plans to see if there are any areas where campus police can do things better. He also wants to change some of the perceptions about the NIU Police Department.

“I need to remind the community of the long service that these officers have provided this community so when you look at what they do everyday it by far outweighs any one or two negative experiences,” Phillips said.

Paul Palian, director of media and public relations, said Phillips has developed a great reputation.

“His experience at UIC in a diverse campus community will serve him well here,” Palian said.

Although Phillips has only been chief for a short time, John Votaw, the NIU police department’s administrative sergeant, said Phillips has keen insight into what the university needs.

“One of the things I really appreciated about him is that his entire law enforcement background is related to university policing,” Votaw said.

Phillips was chosen after a nationwide search that saw 79 applicants and four finalists. Bill Nicklas, vice president of Public Safety and Community Relations, said Phillips was the best fit for police chief.

“I believe his experience in working in a dynamic and diverse campus will help us,” Nicklas said.