Illinois Rising Shield Award winner praises others for career success
By Dan Campana
Nearly 16 years in, Bensenville Police Sgt. Juliann Wilson feels like her career has reached its height.
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police “Rising Shield of Law Enforcement” award Wilson received in April suggests she’ll continue to ascend in law enforcement.
“It depends on what the future has to offer. The current mayor is talking about changes to the organizational structure. If I go back to patrol, then I’ll enjoy being part of the community and developing relationships with the patrol division. If a promotion comes my way, then I’ll break the glass ceiling,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s role as an administrative sergeant involves, among many things, training, accreditation and grants. She’s passionate about active shooter training – Wilson is an ALICE instructor – and encouraging public safety organizations to join the “Stop the Bleed” campaign, which aims to reduce preventable deaths caused by blood loss in the field.
Wilson uses the Disney movie “Mulan” and Alexander Hamilton as references when describing herself and her work. She also mentions a book called “Balcony People” that focuses on “championing people.”
“That’s closer to where I am today; the person in the background cheering others on,” Wilson offers.
She does that with colleagues and in the community.
“When officers start the FTO program, they come to me for policy review. I tell them that every day is a new day. Whatever problem you had yesterday, start fresh today. Make your own opinions based on your experiences. Treat others as you want to be treated,” Wilson said.
Not surprisingly, Wilson gathered that key perspective working on the streets – an experience she found invaluable for the immediacy of its impact on people in the community at a time when they need it most. Such moments cannot be overlooked by officers.
“I loved working patrol. Being a police officer is being welcomed into a person’s life in their worst possible moment and being called upon to do something significant. You may respond to a call for service simply to restore the peace, hold their hand, be the bridge to counseling or a catalyst for change,” Wilson explained. “Every encounter is important in its own way. Don’t overlook the impact police have on people’s lives in any encounter.”
Helping isn’t always without frustration, especially when Wilson has seen inequity brought on by disconnect. Working closely with the public offers insights you can’t get anywhere else, something that can be underestimated.
Such instances do not deter Wilson, who points out that wearing the badge requires officers to evolve with each role, while their perspectives change as they mature. Perhaps that’s why she is so quick and thorough to express her gratitude for those who have mentored, guided and motivated her as a police officer.
“Give credit where credit is due. It would be more accurate to say that I’m influenced by good company than that I affect others. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for family, friends and God. My story is more along the lines of ‘the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all,’” she offered, quoting Mulan.
“My career started with my sergeant following me around saying women don’t belong in law enforcement. Officer Michael Larson got me through with laughter and food gifts I found in my squad. Officer Dexter Stephens supported me with long talks. My future husband (retired Wood Dale Police Sergeant Daniel Wilson) was the FTO in my pocket giving me guidance. Retired Officer Bruce Nichols was a father figure. My parents gave me their faith. I wouldn’t have made it without these people whom have influenced and shaped me,” Wilson said.
(Left, Sgt. Juliann Wilson and her husband, retired Wood Dale Police Sgt. Daniel Wilson; Right, Wilson with Officer Dexter Stephens and Det. Michael Larson – photos courtesy of Juliann Wilson)
Asked about the Rising Shield honor – which ILACP established in 2012 to honor rising professionals under the age of 45 within Illinois who show leadership and strong personal beliefs about law enforcement – Wilson calls it her “Alexander Hamilton moment,” referring to how Hamilton saw himself more modestly than someone considered a highly respected member of George Washington’s inner circle.
“I don’t see anything I do as special or extraordinary. However, my chief (Frank Kosman) must truly think highly of me since he put me in for it,” she said. “It was a touching moment in my relationship with my chief.
“It was an honor to be invited to the (ILACP) conference. I was welcomed into a room of men whose names author important notices that come across my desk. Nothing I do can hold a candle to the accomplishments of these chiefs,” she added.
Wherever she goes from here, Wilson will move into the future with a simple mindset she feels is befitting of all in law enforcement – from the front line to leadership.
“In terms of serving the community, it’s essential that officers become the blue line woven into the community. It’s the small interactions that open doors to communication and build relationships,” she said.
Read the entire 50 Badges series here.