Melrose Park Police Chief Sam Pitassi is grateful for the "textbook education" he received at Triton College. And coupled with real-life accounts from experienced faculty members and classmates who've worked in law enforcement, Pitassi said, "I got the best of both worlds." Pitassi earned an associate's degree and certificate in police science in 1972 and 1974, respectively, at Triton College, before earning his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Lewis University and going on to work for the Melrose Park police department where he steadily climbed the ranks.
Pitassi, who is a member of the FBI/LEEDA Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, has won numerous awards: the State of Illinois Senate Recognition from the 95th General Assembly of the State of Illinois; the State of Illinois 95th General Assembly House of Representatives House Resolution No. 1068; Man of the Year from the Flowers of Italy Club in 2008; a special mayoral commendation in 2001; and the Patriotic Employer award given by the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
What have been some obstacles you've had to overcome in pursuit of your educational and career goals?Because I worked changing shifts, there were times I was unable to attend class. This didn't help with my schooling because it was hard for me to keep up with my classroom work. But thanks to understanding faculty and classmates who offered their notes to me when I needed them, I was able to maintain my grades in all of my classes and complete my education.
What have been some sources of inspiration both in your career and in your life?My uncle was a Chicago police officer, and he inspired me to pursue law enforcement as a career. Plus, police officers from Melrose Park and from other west suburban towns would be called to my high school, Proviso East in Maywood, to patrol hallways to prevent racial unrest and discord and I admired their heroism in accomplishing this task.
What would you describe as your strong suit?My strong suit is that I'm able to keep an open mind when listening to suggestions, which allows me to be open to new ways of operation. It's also great that I'm able to relate to young officers who are changing shifts and working holidays in a job that oftentimes require them to be away from their families because I've experienced it too. It's great to be able to provide guidance to fellow officers.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to pursue a career in your field?They should always keep in mind that their consequences in life – whether a teenager or adult –can keep them from ever being able to work in the police force or any law enforcement agency. Drugs, DUIs, domestic battery and any other criminal charges can affect their chances of becoming a police officer, so it's important to refrain from any and all criminal acts.
What are your words of wisdom for current students?Go be a fireman! (joking) Study hard and don’t take your opportunity to get a higher education for granted, especially when education is oftentimes the key you need to open doors to job opportunities.
What are your plans for the future?Looking to the long-term future, I hope to retire with my full pension. But in the short-term, I plan to continue to keep the streets of Melrose Park safe for residents and serve as a mentor and role model to fellow officers through my leadership and commitment to the law.
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