Tom Dempsey is under scrutiny for a link to military trainers

By E.A. Torriero and Jodi S. Cohen

Tribune staff reporters

The University of Illinois is investigating potential conflicts of interest involving the director of the school’s prestigious police-training institute and Blackwater U.S.A., the military contractor.

The institute’s director, Tom Dempsey, signed an agreement in May allowing the state facility and private contractor to exchange staff and students and share facilities. The pact could give Blackwater a foothold in training candidates for sworn law-enforcement positions in Illinois.

Even as he represented the institute, Dempsey has also been working as a Blackwater consultant in his spare time, top university officials confirmed Monday in response to questions from the Tribune. On July 19, two months after Dempsey signed the institute’s partnership agreement with Blackwater, he submitted a written request for time off to consult for Blackwater.

University administrators who were unaware of the partnership agreement agreed to the 30-day leave of absence, which Dempsey requested so he could travel to Afghanistan to work for the North Carolina-based company in anti-drug-trafficking and police training of Afghan forces, according to university provost Linda Katehi.

Dempsey, 58, a former Marine and director of the institute since 2002, did not respond to several Tribune requests for comment last week and Monday. He is paid $118,178 annually by the university.

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