CHICAGO – Veteran Chicago Police Department Officer Tommy Harrison attempted to set a new state bench press record at 1,008 pounds. 

But his inner grit is to be appreciated as well. 

“I had to grind that right side out and I guess I felt her presence,” said Harrison about his mother, Viola, who passed away six years ago. Together with his Dad, Tommy Harrison Sr., father and son raised three girls in the city’s Englewood neighborhood. 

Then came his powerlifting family.

Powerlifter: Chicago officer’s strength rooted in family as he works to elevate community and set records in the gym

On Dec. 10th in Anna, Illinois, Tommy and his team took center stage at the Invictus Rise Winter Showdown Powerlifting Competition as he tried to set a new state bench press record. 

WGN News first reported Harrison’s story in December of 2021 when he initially attempted the record-setting lift. Harrison recounted his time on the job and his continuing efforts to give back to the kids of Englewood through an annual toy drive. 

But perhaps an equal or greater achievement is teaching his youth mentees the value of perseverance.

The 2021 bench press failed. Harrison has even blown out his arm twice from lifting in recent years. But failure, the married father of two boys said, was not an option.  

Screenshot of video that captures Tommy Harrison breaking the state’s bench press record, lifting 1,008 pounds. (Photo: Provided)

“Me being from Englewood, graduated from Englewood and still do charities for Englewood, I just learned to grind from a youth and my mom played an important role in that,” he said. “Just never quit. If I can breathe and am able-bodied, I should be able to push forth. You know, I could complain about my arm and then I see somebody with no arm. That was my motivation.” 

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So with his spotters at his side, 1,008 pounds of iron and steel pushing down on his chest proved to be no match for Tommy Harrison, indeed one of Chicago’s Very Own and holder of the title: Bench Press Masters’ World Record, the first African American to lift over a 1,000 pounds as well.