UI police trainer: Military agreement deal not a problem

By David Mercer

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The director of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute said he was not working for military contractor Blackwater USA when the institute signed an agreement to share training resources with the company.

Tom Dempsey, now on leave and working for Blackwater in Afghanistan, also said in an e-mail received by The Associated Press late Sunday that the agreement doesn’t give the North Carolina company an inside track to train police in Illinois.

Dempsey is being investigated by the university for potential conflicts of interest. University officials have said they’re trying to determine whether Dempsey was working for Blackwater in May, when he, the company and the institute reached their agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding, or MOU.

“Discussion concerning the current project I am involved in began long before the MOU was approved,” Dempsey wrote. “It is a project that is outside the scope of the MOU.”

The agreement doesn’t mention money. It indicates the Police Training Institute and Blackwater will work together for five years, exchanging faculty, working with each other’s students and conducting unspecified research together.

Blackwater is well-known for its private security forces, used by the federal government in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The company also opened an 80-acre police training center, Blackwater North, in April in Mount Carroll, Ill., about 60 miles west of Rockford.

Neither the Police Training Institute’s agreement with Blackwater nor Dempsey’s job with the contractor are related to the company’s military work, Dempsey said in his e-mail.

He said he is working with Blackwater to train Afghan anti-narcotics police, which he called “a once in a lifetime chance to play a small role in efforts to assist the Afghan police in addressing the opium problem that plagues their nation.” Dempsey wrote.

More than 90 percent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghan-grown poppies, according to a report this year from the United Nations Office on Drugs.

University officials who didn’t know about the agreement approved Dempsey’s July 19 request for a monthlong leave of absence to go to Afghanistan to work for the contractor, university provost Linda Katehi has said. Katehi was not in her office Monday, an assistant said.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler did not immediately respond to a request Monday for comment.

University employees sign what are known as conflict of commitment documents saying they don’t have any outside activities that conflict with their university responsibilities, Kaler has said.

Reports in the Chicago Tribune, which first wrote of Dempsey’s ties to Blackwater, indicated the agreement might open doors for the company to run police training classes certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. The police institute is one of five training centers certified by the board.

Dempsey denied the agreement gives Blackwater any foothold for future work.

The former Marine earns more than $118,000 annually in his university post.

He did not say how much Blackwater is paying him, but said his pay fits within university requirements restricting how much money he can make from outside sources.

Blackwater has declined to discuss Dempsey’s employment.