Police chief candidate’s former department under external investigation

The University of Washington police were the subject of an external investigation during John Vinson’s tenure as chief.

Photos courtesy of The Daily

NIU police chief nominee John Vinson was the University of Washington’s police chief during a time that saw the department come under external investigation. The department is also facing a civil lawsuit alleging a culture of racism during and after Vinson’s departure in 2019. (Cliff DesPeaux & Jordan Pickett | The Daily)

DeKALB— Prior to his time at Indiana University, NIU police chief candidate John Vinson spent 10 years at the University of Washington in Seattle. Vinson served in Washington during a period that saw the department not only receive triple law enforcement accreditation, but also a period with multiple incidents on base.

Vinson first served as the University of Washington’s police chief from 2009 until April 2019, before stepping down to take on the role of assistant vice president for campus and community safety.

During his tenure, Vinson oversaw a department that came under external review this reveals a lack of trust and respect between the leadership of the University of Washington Police Department and those interviewed for the exam.

According to the study, only 8% of respondents felt a “climate of trust within the department” and 19% felt that leaders treated employees with respect.

Vinson was also accused in the report of excluding employees who disagreed or openly spoke out against him, creating fear of reprisal among many in the department.

“I don’t think any (of the examples) are accurately reflected,” Vinson said in an interview with the Northern Star on Wednesday. “We couldn’t go around and say to everybody, ‘well, somebody got demoted because of that reason, or somebody got reassigned because of that reason.'”

Personally, Vinson has also received calls from members of his department for the University of Washington’s board of trustees and president to place Vinson on administrative leave due to fostering “an atmosphere of hostility, retaliation and unethical behavior,” according to the submitted letter. at the University of Washington council of regents.

In a letter written in response To the letter of concern, Vinson said he doesn’t “represent the whole membership.” Vinson also noted that a sergeant has not been employed by the department since 2018.

Vinson came to Seattle on the heels of a class action lawsuit for civil rights against the department, so a culture change was needed, but the culture was above base, Vinson said.

“I was brought in to work through some of these issues,” Vinson said. “The problem I encountered was that many of the people prosecuted before were in high-level positions in the organization. They were my top commanders.

After Vinson left, five black officers filed a lawsuit against the University of Washington Police Department alleging a culture of racism within the department, according to a New York Times article.

The lawsuit details employees’ use of the n-word, racial slurs and stereotyping, according to a complaint filed in court in Washington State Court.

Vinson acknowledged and informed the University of Washington about issues of racism after he left the department in 2019, according to the complaint.

“I knew some of them,” Vinson said. “We had addressed some of that. Absolutely. We were successful in some areas in that we were able to encourage some reluctant members of our team to move on. »

Vinson is scheduled to speak with the NIU community at 1 p.m. Thursday in room Altgeld 315. The forum can also be streamed via Zoom.