Accolades by officers of the law after they take off their badges often go unnoticed, but one Chicago police officer is making his presence known in an area outside of policing.
Accolades by officers of the law after they take off their badges often go unnoticed, but one Chicago police officer is making his presence known in an area outside of policing. Tommy Harrison Jr., who has been with the Chicago Police Department since 1998, currently holds the World Association of Bench Pressers and Deadlifters’ title of World’s Strongest Police Officer. He lifted 705 pounds to capture the title. He’s held the title a few times since 2003 after competing against police officers around the world in Las Vegas, Nev. After setting the world record in 2007 by lifting 826.5 pounds, in March 2008 the 5-feet-8-inches tall officer broke his right arm during training. Harrison grew up in the Englewood neighborhood and started weight lifting when he was 15 at Englewood High School. His goal was to always be the best without using performance-enhancing drugs, which are prevalent in weightlifting. "People always said you can’t do it (weightlifting) drug free," Harrison told the Defender. "I wanted to give kids something to look up to so I’ve done everything drug free." Despite growing up in one of the highest crime areas in Chicago, Harrison decided to be an exception to the statistics by living his life as what he felt was the right way. He graduated high school and went to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., as a criminal justice major. He returned to Chicago after graduation and became the assistant wrestling coach at alma mater. A few years later he joined the police force and saw an opportunity for him to change the perception of officers. "I just thought that with the stuff going on in Englewood, the police had a bad rep," he said. "It was known that the police had bad attitudes and I tried to change that." After his first two years as a police officer, Harrison competed in the End Zone bench press competition. He credits 10-year Chicago police detective Al Kennedy with making him believe in himself to be a weightlifting champion and do it drug-free. "When I met Tommy, he was determined when it came to weightlifting and policing," Kennedy said. "He was determined to be the best at both. He wanted to be the best in the world and that’s what he is." Harrison works out several times a week with Kennedy and his weightlifting squad, "Team Gladiators.” "When we first started working out, there wasn’t much of a difference in how much we lifted," Kennedy said. "But his consistency made him stand out." Harrison, a married father of a 6-year-old son, said he wants to be an inspiration to other young men in the community where he grew up. "I would like to eventually open up a gym and train high school athletes," he said. "My main focus is to assist and inspire young kids." One of his most admirable traits is how humble he remains despite his accomplishments, which his close friends have witnessed. "He’s a great all-around person, family man, policeman and all-around great athlete," Kennedy said. "I’ve seen him tell kids that if they stay away from gangs and drugs that they can do the same thing." David Lewis, another good friend, concurred. "For Tommy to be as big of a guy he is, he’s very humble," Lewis said. "A lot of times when you meet guys that size, they’re arrogant but he’s the most humble person I know." Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender (Defender/Worsom Robinson)