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Why I Do the Job: Oak Brook Police Officer Alyson Kern

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

Duty to service is truly a calling for me. Family members tell me I was as young as five years old when I first began mentioning a desire to serve. It is impossible to describe the longing and drive that motivates someone to become a part of something bigger than themselves.

Prior to becoming a police officer, I studied criminal justice at College of DuPage and Western Illinois University. I joined the Army as a Military Police Officer in 2010 and deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. My time in the service is something I truly hold sacred and would not change the experience for anything in world.

In the military you learn quickly about teamwork, adaptability and perseverance. To make it, you need to learn to count on your team and be the type of person your team can rely on. You also need to learn to adapt to your task, surroundings and situations.

I would say that all of the above attributes are things I could recommend to newer officers. One must know that true teamwork is a give and take. You must be willing and able to help others and also willing and able to accept help when you need it.

After leaving the military, I still had an ardent desire to serve and to protect those who are unable or unwilling to do it on their own, so I joined the police department in 2014. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of becoming a crisis intervention officer, juvenile officer and a crash investigator with our local reconstruction team. I was elated to receive the department’s Officer of the Year award for 2017 because it meant both my peers and superiors recognized my dedication to the job and were willing to take the time and effort to provide recognition.

In addition to teamwork, commitment and perseverance, I believe a police officer must be able to adapt quickly to each incident – adaptability is a strong trait of mine and it has aided me in the field.

One night, I had just finished a physical altercation with a subject who, to say the least, had many previous encounters with the police. I was still bandaging up some scrapes when I received a call of a missing person. I met with an elderly woman who claimed she woke up to find her husband missing. I quickly realized her husband had passed away years prior and she was dealing with an episode of dementia.

I had to put aside all the aggravation, anger and fear from the fight in order to change my demeanor to compassion and empathy as I reminded the woman of her husband’s passing. That night was one of the best in my career so far as I experienced both ends of the law enforcement spectrum in a short amount of time.

For me, the recent criticism against the police only makes the job more necessary and the yearning to serve greater. As many have crossed the line from order to chaos, it is imperative that the line stand strong. I believe there must be a group of people willing and able to uphold the laws of the land and keep our nation a peaceful one for all its citizens.

The rhetoric at times becomes exhausting and demeaning, but it is important to remember the greater good. It has been said, “We the underappreciated, must do the unimaginable and see the unthinkable to protect the ungrateful.”

As police officers, we serve and protect both those who praise us and those who wish us dead. We sacrifice, we sweat, we bleed, we cry and, ultimately, some perish, all with the same purpose of answering the call. It does not matter if you work for a small rural agency, a major city or serve in the military; we all have the humbling experience of protecting the people, the Constitution, and defending the freedoms we all enjoy.

Oak Brook Police Officer Alyson Kern joined the department in 2014 in the patrol division. She was named Officer of the Year for 2017, ranking with the highest number of crime prevention contacts and the second highest number of traffic contacts for the year. She is a member of the Honor Guard and participates in a number of charitable activities.