2012 Morris Police Officer of the Year Began His Career at JJC

Morris Police Officer Paul Burke’s hours are opposite of what most people work: he begins his day at 7 p.m., and is ready to call it a night at 7 a.m.

Working the night shift can be pretty busy – with many of his calls and arrests dealing with alcohol – but he’s good at what he does, and was even named 2012 Morris Police Officer of the Year.

“Nights keep me on my toes and there is never a dull moment,” he said.

Burke, a 2006 Joliet Junior College graduate, is glad he pursued a degree in law enforcement. Burke said one of the best parts of the job is being able to help those in trouble.

Morris Police Officer Paul Burke

“The most rewarding part about being a police officer is helping people in the community and knowing I make a difference,” he said. “I have received letters from citizens thanking me for my service on particular incidents – and there is no greater feeling.”

Burke was recently honored for saving a suicidal man’s life this past August during the Sept. 16 Morris City Council meeting.

The Morris officer always knew he wanted to get into law enforcement. Growing up, he lived by two neighbors who were police officers. As a kid, he always looked up to them.

“I admired them and I knew right away, this was what I wanted to do,” he said.

When he got older, Burke began to notice police officers in the news – and how they were always making a difference in their community. This fueled his dream of becoming one of them.

After graduating from Minooka High School, Burke chose JJC not only because it was affordable, but also because of the law enforcement program’s great reputation.

“JJC has changed my life by giving me the jump start to my career,” Burke said, adding that he began working at the Morris Police Department two years after graduating. “I was able to take the skills I learned from JJC and apply them to my career.”

According to Burke, the most helpful classes at JJC were the criminal justice courses taught by adjunct professor Don Ernst. He also learned a lot from his English 101 and 102 classes at JJC. Burke said he still uses the lessons from those classes today, especially while utilizing his communication skills, problem-solving skills, knowledge of criminal, juvenile, and case law, and writing reports.

Burke’s advice for future police officers is to go to school – and to make sure they really want the career.

“Further your education. Law enforcement is a never ending learning experience, and the more knowledge you have going in the better off you will be,” he said. “Next, try to get involved with local police departments to get a feel for the job. Law enforcement is not for everyone.”

Burke has enjoyed working with the Morris Police Department, and is very passionate about police work. He was both surprised and honored this past March, when he was given the title of 2012 Morris Police Officer of the Year during a city council meeting.

“I work with a great group of men and women who are dedicated every year to serving the public as I do,” Burke said. “The honor of the award meant a lot to me. I was publicly recognized for my hard work and dedication to the police department. It was an amazing feeling.”

Without obtaining his degree at JJC, Burke might not have gained the skills and knowledge he needed for his career. Now, Burke is living his dream.

“I enjoyed my time at JJC and I love my career as a police officer,” he said. “It was something I always wanted to do. I get a great deal of satisfaction from making a positive change in my community. Whether it is a successful arrest or just helping someone in need, this career is very rewarding.”

For more information about JJC’s Criminal Justice program, log on to www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/career-technical/business/criminal-justice-studies.

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