Trustees approve unarmed safety, security force for NIU police

NIU+Police+Department+will+have+14+unarmed+security+guards.+These+security+personnel+will+operate+as+foot-patrol+security+guards+for+the+NIU+campus+and+in+the+immediate+vicinity+where+many+students+live.

Northern Star file photo

NIU Police Department will have 14 unarmed security guards. These security personnel will operate as foot-patrol security guards for the NIU campus and in the immediate vicinity where many students live.

Aidan Bengford, News Reporter

DeKALB — The NIU Board of Trustees unanimously approved extending the contracts with Kates Security Services to have 14 unarmed security guards aid the NIU Police Department in their duties. 

NIU and police departments across the country have been losing police officers to retirement and joining other professional fields, acting NIU Police Chief Darren Mitchell said. 

“This supplemental safety and security force is going to give us additional presence and also be our eyes and ears,” Mitchell said.

These security personnel will operate as foot-patrol security guards for the NIU campus and in the immediate vicinity where many students live, according to the Nov. 18 Board of Trustees agenda

“Based on information from the Department of Justice and FBI, the number one activity is through officers for security presence, foot patrol presence, and so we put together a strategy that allows us to do just that,” Mitchell said.

NIU will be protected from liability if these security personnel act outside the scope of their duties. 

The NIU Police Department does not plan on giving these security personnel any weapons. 

The physical presence is enough of a deterrent for criminal activity, Mitchell said. “We don’t want people to have a notion or give them a notion that they are here to take any kind of enforcement action,” Mitchell said.

There will be select hours of the day they are around. The day shift will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the night shift will be from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Total contractual cost will run around  $420,000, according to the Board of Trustees agenda.  This equates to about $30,000 per security officer to work roughly eight hours a day for work lasting from Oct. 25 to May 14.

The university was projected to lose $30 million for fiscal year 2021. Overall, the university finished FY21 with a deficit of $925,523, according to the Board of Trustees agenda

“This was due to the receipt of timely funding drawing in approximately $26 million in COVID relief funding from both the state and federal sources,” Chief Financial Officer Sarah Chinniah said. 

In future years, NIU plans to spend more money on programs, such as extracurricular activities, that NIU was not holding or holding to a limited extent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we go forward, we all have to keep in mind and point out that that budget can’t sustain the university at the level we want it to,” Trustee Rita Athas said. “As we go forward, what everyone has to realize is those cuts were made in extraordinary circumstances.”

As of Sept. 30, the first quarter of FY22 is over. At NIU, the fiscal year starts July 1. 

“Based on first quarter of fiscal year 22 numbers the university is on pace to meet the budget plan approved by the board in June; revenues are ahead of the prior year at the same time by nearly $26 million,” said Andrew Rogers, assistant vice president for budget and financial planning.

With the university opening its doors to in-person classes, there have also been additional expenses. 

“On the expense side, overall spending relative to FY21 increased by $23.9M or 25.2% driven by scholarships spent related to COVID-19 relief funding,” according to the Board of Trustees agenda.

Trustee Dennis Barsema commented on the openness of the deficit in the agenda. 

“I also see that we continue tracking towards a loss of $10 million for fiscal ‘22 without further application of any federal relief funds,” Barsema said.

Barsema appreciated that they are not hiding the deficit with the expected federal relief funding because that funding will not be there in future school years.

“The federal relief fund and savings from the bond refinancing are limited and should not be used to mask the reality that we need to make changes in pursuit of long-term fiscal sustainability for NIU,” Barsema said.

NIU will be advocating for a higher level of funding from the state government. 

$98.6 million in funding is being requested, according to the Board of Trustees agenda. This is more than requested in previous years and was made with previous deficits in mind, Chinniah said.