In Maywood, Two College Interns Get a Master Class In Policing

Ian Harris and Adam Dreger
Ian Harris, left, and Adam Dreger. (The Village Free Press).

Monday, April 28, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

Maywood Chief of Police Valdimir Talley said that when he was hired by the village on December 16, 2013, one of his main priorities was getting more help within the department without burdening the town’s already strained finances. His solution came in the form of two interns secured through a relationship he had with Western Illinois University in downstate Macomb.

Ian Harris, 26, and Adam Dreger, 22, were both seniors in WIU’s law enforcement program, widely considered one of the best in the nation, when each of them approached the department’s internship coordinator about acquiring some real-world experience in their chosen field before graduating.

Harris, a law enforcement and justice administration major, and Dreger, a Homeland Security major, didn’t know anything about Maywood before being tapped to come here. They knew even less about each other. Both knowledge gaps, however, would get filled in rather quickly.

“We didn’t know each other at Western, but since we’ve worked as interns here, we’ve formed a bond. It’s impossible not to when you’re working together everyday on the same projects,” said Harris, whose internship started January 13, a week before Dreger’s.

Throughout the roughly three months in which they were interns, the two were dispatched on a variety of tasks–from working on annual reports to developing green projects that could potentially save the department substantial sums of money.

One of those projects entailed thinking of ways to reuse tires that had been illegally dumped throughout the village. Their solution? Possibly recycling the discarded tires into urban mulch to be used as flooring in an outdoor break area that the department is considering installing at the north entrance of the police station.

That latter idea is perhaps indicative of the Chief’s influence. For five days a week, Harris and Dreger, whose austere work area was mere feet away from the Chief’s office, arrived at the station at around 8 AM and often left after 5 PM. During board meetings, which would begin at 7 PM and sometimes adjourn after 10 PM, the two interns would be seated right behind the Chief. And as part of Talley’s general ban on casual wear, the two were rarely, if ever, seen in anything less than a tie and dress slacks.

Ian HarrisAdam Dreger

When asked how it was to work for such a ubiquitous, if temporary, boss, both had nothing but adulation for both the man and the experience.

“It was a rush,” said Harris. “He’s very professional, distinguished, just an outstanding individual–very knowledgeable and personable and caring…You know how bosses put on the hard face? Well, behind the sometimes hard exterior that bosses sometimes have, he’s definitely got a heart.”

“It was a great experience. He’s always got something new on his mind to challenge you,” said Dreger. “He’s all about getting better, because everything can be better. You need to strive to better yourself and better your community.”

But better doesn’t necessarily mean more glamorous. Both said that their experiences were nothing like the stylized episodes of “CSI” or even the neat, formulaic version of law enforcement depicted in college textbooks.

“The real life version is a culture shock,” said Dreger. “The internship was a real life experience. In a classroom all you read is textbooks after textbook. And theories.”

“A textbook presents pictures and you develop expectations of how things are supposed to go,” said Harris. “Your expectations aren’t met all the time. It’s not Hollywood.”

If the everyday details of policing don’t provide as neat a narrative arc as the television shows may lead people to believe, there was one aspect of Harris’s and Dregers’s experience that may prove fodder for a Hollywood script–if only for its logical resolution. Both internships, which ended last Friday, led to paying jobs.

Dreger, who has aspirations to work in a federal law enforcement agency, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive s(ATF), will go to work in the security sector in Arlington Park.

Harris, who aims to work in law enforcement at the administrative level, will end up getting to know more about Maywood than he perhaps thought possible before this internship began. He’ll be working for Current Technologies and will be responsible for installing and maintaining the village’s network of closed circuit security cameras.

Although his new job won’t require him to attend village board meetings, Harris said that his experience as a witness to Maywood’s governing process taught him a lesson that he may just put to use.

“[Witnessing the governmental process in Maywood] taught me that there’s more than one person to blame for things; that  there are a host of personnel responsible for things on both ends. The board is not the end all of things, but the officers and the rest of community have their own parts to play in the picture. And if they don’t do them, that’s where the disconnect comes. I’ve heard that there’s nothing [people] can do, but that’s not true. There’s never nothing you can do.” VFP

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