Patch Spends Five Minutes with Edward Sajdak
Oak Lawn law enforcement officer makes sure that no cop killed in the line of duty is forgotten.
He’s Edward Sajdak—long-time Oak Lawn resident, dedicated public servant, and the president and founder of the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation of Cook County, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to honoring the lives of fallen law enforcement officers. Employed for 25 years by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, Sajdak says his love for public service is what most attracted him to a career in law enforcement. It comes as no surprise, then, that Sajdak regularly spends his free time giving back to the community by volunteering at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. When he is not working or actively promoting the foundation, Sajdak enjoys collecting police uniform patches and spending time with the prides and joys of his life, his niece Kim, and his nephews Mike, Steve, and Dan.
Oak Lawn Patch: How long have you lived in Oak Lawn?
Sajdak: I moved here in 1979.
Oak Lawn Patch: What inspired you to go into law enforcement?
Sajdak: I’ve always liked police work even as a small child in the third and fourth grade watching Adam-12 every week. There is just an opportunity to do good and I think the profession is a noble one.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation of Cook County?
Sajdak: It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization made up of law enforcement officers from agencies throughout Cook County who have joined together in order to establish a police memorial dedicated to those that have been killed in the line of duty or killed while in the performance of duty.
Oak Lawn Patch: What made you decide to establish such an organization?
Sajdak: I started because of an officer that died at work in 1992. He was killed by an offender that he had taken into custody. In the course of searching him, the guy head-butted him and the officer died at the end of the day from a blot clot that traveled to his heart and killed him. The department refused to acknowledge the death as an on-duty injury because he died at home that night, so I got involved in the petition to get his star retired. That’s when I first got interest here locally.
Oak Lawn Patch: What exactly is a “peace officer?”
Sajdak: A peace officer is any law enforcement officer, whether it is a deputy, sheriff, correctional officer, FBI agent, or a police officer.
Oak Lawn Patch: Can you give a brief history of the POMFCC?
Sajdak: The foundation was incorporated in 2002, but the work started well before that. On May 15, 2001, the Cook County Board unanimously passed the resolution establishing May 10 of every year as Peace Officers Day of Recognition and Remembrance in Cook County. And in the process of all our work with the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Cook County donated property in the Cermak Woods Forest Preserve.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is the significance of the memorial’s chosen site?
Sajdak: If you look at the map on our website, there is an outline of Cook County and there is a mark where the proposed memorial will be, almost exactly in the middle of the county. It is a little bit of an off-centered star, with the five arms pointing to each corner of the county. The fifth arm, which points northeast, is pointing toward Chicago which is the county seat. So it is symbolically drawing all the corners of the county to one location.
Oak Lawn Patch: What type of ceremony takes place on May 10?
Sajdak: Every year we hold a public peace officer memorial ceremony. A police motorcade starts the ceremony and police vehicles line up in silent procession with their lights on in memory of the fallen officers. We normally get a vehicle from each department that has lost officers. There are 62 police departments in Cook County outside the city of Chicago that have lost police officers as well as approximately 130 officers from other agencies and this memorial gives them an opportunity to be recognized.
Oak Lawn Patch: How do you raise money for the foundation?
Sajdak: The memorial that is being built to honor the fallen officers will be privately financed, whether through corporate donations, business contributions, or fundraising events. We also welcome the support of all the public in our efforts. Because we are a 501(c)(3) organization, any donations, big or small, are tax-deductible and always appreciated. We also have one big annual fundraiser that raises money for some of the smaller expenses of memorial creation and planning but also to help keep the foundation running. This year, the fundraiser will take place on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011 at Bourbon Street.
Oak Lawn Patch: As a long-time law enforcement officer, what do you think of FOX TV’s Chicago Code?
Sajdak: The scenes are real, it is Chicago. I think it is a good story that deserves a look, but there is a lot of poetic license that takes place with some of the procedures. I probably enjoy watching it mostly because it takes place in Chicago.
Oak Lawn Patch: If you could have lunch with three police officers, real or fictional, who would they be and why?
Sajdak: I always did like Bobby Simone from NYPD Blue, and I would really like to have lunch with Mike, the Chicago police officer, from Mike and Molly. My role model today is Oak Lawn police officer Thomas McNeela. He is just a text-book, top ace police officer. He is an incredible individual personally and professionally and is representative of what every police officer should be like.
Oak Lawn Patch: When you were growing up—who was your inspiration then?
Sajdak: I was inspired by Walter Payton, one of my favorite sports heroes. I was really inspired by his dedication to the sport and his physical dominance. He could do things physically that nobody else could do and yet he was so down to earth. He was just the most sincere person and a practical joker, and that is something you don’t normally see in professional sports.
The Peace Officers Memorial Foundation will be hosting a 10k run called "Run For the Cops" on Saturday, July 30 starting at 7:30 a.m. All proceeds go towards establishing the first-ever Cook County Peace Officers Memorial. The run will take place at Swallow Cliff Trails Forest Preserve at Route 83 and LaGrange Road in Palos Park. More details will be posted on the foundation's web site in May at www.pomfcc.org. You can email questions to email@example.com.
For more information, photos of past ceremonies, or to learn how you can help, visit the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation web site at pomfcc.com.