CHICAGO — At Chicago Police Headquarters, in a glass case, there is a piece of Elizabeth French’s heart in the shape of a star.
“Just that piece of her, it was an important part of who she was,” French said, looking at the badge her daughter, Officer Ella French, wore. “I always want to touch it, kind of like as if I was touching her. I just want to touch it.”
It’s been two full years since Ella French was killed in the line of duty. On August 7, 2021, Officer French was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Englewood that also left her partner, Officer Carlos Yanez, Jr., fighting for his life.
“It’s hard to think that she’s not there anymore,” Elizabeth French said. “I miss her every day.”
French, 29, had only been a member of the Chicago Police Department for three years, but in that short time, she became known for community outreach.
“Very young, very short time on the job but man, she knew how to make an impact and I think that’s something she learned from her mother,” said Angel Novalez, the Chicago Police Department’s chief of constitutional policing.
One month before her death, Ella French played a key role in saving the life of a one-year-old who was shot – rushing the baby to Comer Childrens Hospital.
French never left the baby’s side, eventually escorting her on a gurney to the emergency room in a moment captured by a WGN camera.
She was also one of the officers involved in the mistaken raid on the home of social worker Anjanette Young.
Young later said, “Officer French was the only officer who showed (me) any dignity or respect on the night of the raid.”
Now, to honor Ella’s legacy of service and compassion, the Chicago Police Foundation – a non-profit that typically provides equipment – is instead starting a scholarship.
“They could have donated equipment,” Novalez said. “I think equipment is used and forgotten about. I think what he was looking for was something that gave life to a legacy.”
Allan Reich, a board member of the Chicago Police Foundation, said Ella French’s story so moved him that he “tried to figure out how we could honor and memorialize Ella, as a symbol of truly what a quality police officer is, and somebody who really cared about her community.”
Reich donated money for a scholarship that would benefit high school students and they brought an idea to Ella’s mother, Elizabeth – a retired teacher, passionate about education.
“They asked me about naming a scholarship after her,” Elizabeth French said. “I said yes. I said yes because I think Ella would be both pleased and honored that there’s this scholarship out there in her name that will help support these young women and men on their life paths.”
Scholarships of up to $10,000 will be awarded to children of CPD officers and other students involved in police programming.
The money is intended to offset high school expenses like tuition, school supplies, and transportation.
“There’s nothing more important for our youth than education,” Reich said. “That’s a great challenge that we face nowadays, but through education, our youth can value themselves and value their futures and when they do that, they value other people and other people’s lives.”
For Elizabeth – who reaches out to touch her departed daughter’s badge inside the CPD entrance, it’s comforting to know Ella, through this scholarship – will be touching young lives.
“She liked to help,” Elizabeth said. “She would feel bad when she would see somebody hurting or in a situation. Those kinds of things would make her feel bad and yeah, I think after being a people person, she thought she could make a difference.”
For more information on the Ella French Scholarship, go to: www.chicagopolicefoundation.org