NIANTIC, Ill. (WAND) – The Village of Niantic moved to put rules in place for the local police chief after the WAND News I-TEAM made inquiries into his off duty use of a village police car. Our inquiry also showed he was behind in training which resulted in a temporary suspension.
The I-Team received tips that an unmarked car with police lights was being spotted on a regular basis in the Decatur South Shores area and near Millikin University. One tip provided the I-TEAM with a municipal license plate number. The I-TEAM used an internet search tool, govplates.com, which is operated by the Edgar County Watchdogs. The plate search revealed the car is registered as a 2006 Chevy Impala belonging to the Village of Niantic. We later determined it was being used by Chief John Grady.
The I-TEAM observed and video recorded the police car numerous times outside of Niantic traveling to Decatur and then parked at the Decatur Indoor Sports Center, a sandwich shop and a local restaurant during the months of January, February and March. On one occasion, with the police car parked outside of the restaurant, we video recorded Grady inside of the establishment on a video gaming machine.
We also received information Grady was using the taxpayer financed squad car to transport a juvenile. We obtained a photo of the juvenile in the front passenger seat as it drove through Decatur.
The I-TEAM requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dispatch records from the Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center showing when law enforcement was asked to handle calls in Niantic during calendar year 2018. During the year dispatch records show there were 174 calls in 2018. Of those calls the Niantic police department only responded to two calls. One in May and one in November. The remaining calls were handled by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.
The I-TEAM frequently drove through the Village of Niantic and could not locate the squad car. On one morning we did locate it parked in front of the Niantic Market on E. Lewis Street. We watched from across the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks as Grady exited about a half hour later. He entered the squad car and drove to Decatur.
We submitted a FOIA request for records from the village. Among the records we requested was a copy of the policy covering the use of the squad car. We received a response from the village attorney saying there was no policy in place.
In late March, the Village of Niantic held a special board meeting where trustees were told of our FOIA request. The minutes from that meeting show the issue of the use of the squad car had come up before. The I-TEAM had also requested records regarding Grady’s police training. The minutes reflect the chief was short 4 hours of training and two months behind on his gun training. The minutes go on to show Grady was suspended until the training was completed.
WAND News requested an interview with either Chief Grady or the village mayor through the village attorney. They both declined our request.
The board has implemented a new car usage policy. Grady is no longer permitted to take the squad car out of the village unless assisting another law enforcement agency or for maintenance when approved by the mayor. No other persons are allowed to ride in the vehicle unless they are an individual in custody, village trustees, or the mayor.
(I-TEAM photographer Andy Barker assisted with this story.)