I first met Officer Rasul Freelain when I began teaching at Percy Julian Middle School in 2004. It was the end of my career and the beginning of his. This man was impossible to miss as he swaggered down the hallways in his uniform, seeming to effortlessly know the names of students and teachers alike. It was status to be recognized by Rasul. His deep baritone on the P.A. was a bit foreboding, but if a teacher thought a skirmish might develop between kids, Rasul would be the one she would notify. He’d bring them together and the fight would never occur; no report would ever be made.
Or Rasul might invite them to join him in the Police Explorer Club which he started, meeting after school and on weekends. This is exactly what he did with belligerent twins new to Oak Park who were distrusting of both their new community and its schools. They attended every one of these meetings, and connected with Rasul as they were unable to do with anyone else at the school. He had a personality that won people over; someone you’d point to as you tapped a friend and said, “That cop is going places.” Sure enough the next year he was the school resource officer at OPRF High School.
As time passed, I’d occasionally run into Detective Rasul Freelain. The conversations were always about family. So it came as a surprise when I ran into him another time, while he was patrolling the Farmers Market, a strange assignment for a detective. Turned out he had requested reassignment to patrol after his wife, Ontisar began her journey back to health after her breast cancer diagnosis. This was not a tough decision for Rasul; he had set his priorities many years previous, with family being number one. With more days off as a patrol officer, he’d have more time at home to help his wife and three school-aged children.
The reduction in status left him vulnerable. Shortly thereafter, he was unjustly accused of violations and fired. Three lean years and four hearings later, he was awarded back pay and he chose to be reinstated with his good name intact.
Justice stands up to power, and if a student today would ask me the meaning of integrity, I’d hold up a picture of Rasul. Now four years later, after two more promotions, he is retiring as head of the juvenile division, with 20 years’ pension credits. He has a healthy wife and three very proud children and is a man full of gratitude.
I am proud to call him my friend.