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Why I Do the Job: Park Forest Police Officer Haytham Elyyan

Series features first-person essays written by police officers about their work and their dedication

If I hadn’t become a police officer, I probably would have continued my education toward becoming a physical therapist – but I realized I wanted to be a police officer when I was about 16 years old.

That’s when I joined the Oak Lawn Police Department’s cadet program. I was interested in a career in law enforcement, but I really didn’t know what branch I wanted to do, so I got involved as a cadet to get a little more insight on a police officer’s job.

As a cadet, I learned a lot more about what being a police officer really entails, and that it’s not like what you see on TV. After being a cadet, I continued to learn about the job as a community service officer handling parking issues and animal complaints for two years.

In 2015, I was hired by Park Forest and became the department’s first Muslim police officer. I believe that milestone shows that it doesn’t matter what your religion, race or culture is when it comes to serving the public. Everyone has their own special skill that they can use to better serve their communities. And, at the end of the day, your values and actions speak for themselves as to what type of police officer you are.

I like to think I’m friendly and easy to talk to as a police officer. Some of the citizens I encounter are having the worst possible day in their lives. They feel like all hope is lost, that they are stuck and can’t move forward.

However, sometimes I am able to help change their circumstances and make their life a little bit better. To me, helping someone when they can’t help themselves is far more rewarding than other things that come along with police work.

Senior members of the department and family members keep me on track. I know I can rely on them for help whenever I need it. I also look up to my brother, who is a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department. He has a lot more years of experience over me, so I know he can help me out when I come across certain situation.

I’ve encountered several other Muslim police officers from various agencies from across the area. What I’ve found through my work and the experience of others is that sometimes being from a certain background can be to your advantage. It’s beneficial when you can relate to how some people are accustomed to doing things.

Nearing completion of my bachelor’s degree, I look ahead to expanding my career and getting more experience by serving in specialized units. This way, I can expand my knowledge in law enforcement past the patrol officer level.

Speaking of learning, I wish the news and social media outlets would assist law enforcement in better educating the public about who we are and what we do. More often than not, we only see information about when police officers made mistakes. I’d rather see the focus placed on the overwhelming amount of times police officers help citizens.

I know it is kind of cliché to say that I like to help people, but that is really what motivates me. It’s why I do the job.

Park Forest Police Officer Haytham Elyyan joined the department in June 2015, but has been connected to law enforcement since his days as a cadet in 2010. Starting in 2013, he worked as a community service officer before eventually becoming a full-time officer. Currently assigned to the patrol division, Elyyan was named the department’s Officer of the Year in 2017.