Dialogue begins after Naperville college asks police to stop staging on campus

Updated 6/9/2020 6:27 PM

The request from a college near downtown Naperville for police to stop using the campus as a staging area came not after protests last week, but during one, the city's police chief said Tuesday.

North Central College on June 3 gave Naperville police permission to use its property as a preparation area for protest response, Chief Robert Marshall said. That came two days after a June 1 protest ended with 30 downtown businesses vandalized or looted.


So while preparing for another large protest June 5, Marshall said, the department placed one armored vehicle and roughly 15 special response team officers at New Hall, a residence hall near the college's athletic facilities. The vehicle and officers remained there as protesters gathered.

"We wanted to make sure that we were there to protect the college from the potential of looting and vandalism ... and also to protect the East-side residential area," Marshall said. "I was extremely disappointed to learn that on Friday, in the midst of this active protest, our personnel was told to leave college property."

Marshall said officers left immediately when asked and moved the armored vehicle to a different site east of downtown.

North Central College President Troy Hammond, in a letter to Marshall, acknowledged that police were staged on the campus "with our express permission" and that officers "left the campus property at our request." But he said future requests for use of college land to help with police operations will require "additional dialogue" before being granted.

In a message to the campus Saturday, Hammond said he was "taken aback" by images community members shared of "heavily armed police officers on our campus." He said sights like these can cause trauma, and to anyone who felt that way, he apologized.

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Marshall said police were well equipped to protect the city from vandalism or burglaries and to protect the First Amendment rights of protesters to freely speak their views.

"I understand when somebody looks out and sees armored vehicles with police in riot gear, that can look daunting. I surely get that," Marshall said. "But we were there with a purpose and we were there to protect our community."

In his letter to Marshall, Hammond called this time an "important moment in history" when all institutions, including police, are required to assess how they work together. He said this includes review of "how we make decisions and how we foster appearances and actions that reflect the best of who we are and who we want to be."

As Naperville organizations undergo this work, Hammond said, the college pledges to "work together at an even deeper level of engagement."

While Marshall said he was disappointed at the sudden request to relocate the special response team last week, he said police and the college have enjoyed a strong working relationship in the past. He said he expects that partnership to continue.

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