Open forums scheduled for 3 NIU Police Chief finalists

University hopes to have new chief on campus by early 2022.


Northern Star File photo

An NIU police car parked on campus. NIU Police Chief Darren Mitchell is set to create a 3 year strategic plan.

Updated: Nov. 30, 2021
Thursday’s candidate announcement
John Vinson, is the current director of Strategic Planning and Accreditation at Indiana University. Vinson is the final applicant for the NIU Chief of Police opening and will meet with the community at 1 p.m. Thursday. (Courtesy of Indiana University )

 The final candidate in NIU’s search for its next chief of police is John N. Vinson, director of Strategic Planning and Accreditation at Indiana University, according to the NIU president’s office

Vinson joined the Indiana University Public Safety and Institutional Assurance staff in April 2020. Prior to joining Indiana, Vinson worked for 11 years at the University of Washington in Seattle, starting as Chief of Police and moving up to the assistant vice president for campus and community safety in May 2019, according to his application. He has been a member of various law enforcement agencies since 1996.

Vinson is a graduate of the FBI National academy. He holds both an undergraduate and master’s degree from Central Michigan University and a doctorate of Philosophy in public administration from Western Michigan University. 

The NIU community is scheduled to hear from Vinson at 1 p.m. Thursday in Altgeld room 315, for his police chief candidate forum. Participants can also watch remotely via Zoom.

This is the final candidate to be named in the search for the next NIU Chief of Police.

Updated: Nov 27, 2021


Tuesday’s candidate announcement
Chicago Police Commander Roderick Robinson was named the second of three NIU Chief of Police finalists. (Courtesy of the Chicago Police Department)

 The second finalist for the NIU Chief of Police opening is Chicago Police Department Commander Roderick Robinson, according to the NIU president’s office

Robinson, a 26-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, rose to the rank of Unit Commander in December 2020. 

As a commanding officer in Chicago, Robinson worked to reduce violent crime by 12% in the Englewood district, created a community policing network and worked to build a city-wide crime unit, according to his application materials

Robinson’s forum is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in Altgeld 315, or participants can watch remotely via Zoom.

The final candidate will be announced 48 hours prior to Thursday’s open forum.

The Northern Star will continue to update this story when the final candidate is announced.

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Monday’s finalist announced

Monday’s finalist presentation for the open NIU Chief of Police position will be with Darren Mitchell, who is currently the interim police chief, according to the NIU president’s office.

Interim NIU Chief of Police Darren Mitchell will speak to the community Monday about his goals for the NIU Police Department if named the next chief of the department. (Courtesy of NIU)

Mitchell has been a member of the NIU police department since 2000. He rose to the rank of Deputy Chief in 2011 before stepping in while the search continued for a full-time candidate.

Mitchell hopes to expand the use of integrated community policing such as traditional patrol and community-based efforts, while also crime prevention measures not seen through a presence of force, according to his application

Mitchell’s forum is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday in Altgeld 315, or participants can watch remotely via Zoom

The remaining two candidates will be announced 48 hours prior to their scheduled forum time. 

The Northern Star will continue to update this story as the remaining candidates are announced.

DeKALB— The search for a new permanent police chief is in its final stages as NIU announced three finalists for the university police chief spot that has been vacant since April. The public will have the opportunity to meet these candidates in open forum sessions at 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in Altgeld 315 or via Zoom.

“This has been a very well-thought-out process,” said Rena Cotsones, senior associate vice president for outreach, engagement and regional developments. “We understand the importance of this position, and so we wanted to be sure that we were looking all over the country for the best possible candidates.” 

The three candidates were selected from a pool of 24 qualified applicants. Candidates will be announced 48 hours prior to their forum on campus, Cotsones said.

The university partnered with Public Sector Search and Consulting, which specializes in finding and recruiting police chiefs for law enforcement agencies nationwide, Cotsones said. 

The search for a permanent chief began over the summer after former NIU chief of police Tom Phillips announced his retirement from the force in April. Since Phillips’ retirement, Deputy Chief Darren Mitchell has been acting as interim police chief while the search has been ongoing. 

Public Sector Search and Consulting opened the process up to members of the university community but saw no engagement through the sessions. 

Cotsones hopes these sessions will be informative and engaging for both the candidates and the community.

“We have worked very hard to invite students into the process,” Cotsones said. “And (NIU) really hopes that students will take advantage of the opportunity when the applicants or candidates are here.”

Along with the open public forum, NIU has also scheduled six private invite sessions that will be made up of various cross-sections of the NIU community. These sessions will not be open to the public. Cotsones said that the Division of Student Affairs was assisting in creating the sessions.

“They’re inviting leaders of student government, student organizations across campus and Greek life organizations for one session,” Cotsones said. “There will be another session with leaders of the campus resource centers and students from those resource centers.” 

The open forums will be available in-person and also online. NIU will survey attendees and use feedback into making its final selection. Those who attend in-person will be free to ask questions and interact with the candidate, the online stream will not have that capability. 

After the sessions, the process will speed up significantly with the possibility of hiring a new permanent police chief.

“We hope to have someone actually coming to campus very early in 2022,” Cotsones said. 

The Northern Star will update this article as the names of the three candidates are released to the public. Name are scheduled to be released 48 hours prior to candidates visiting campus.