Eric Pulia works to better Tri-Taylor in variety of ways
October 5, 2018

Eric Pulia (third from left) with fellow Chicago Police officers. His role with the police allows him to fight crime in the Tri-Taylor area.

By Robert Kingett

The Tri-Taylor community has a host of residents and business owners ready and willing to do whatever they can to keep the area thriving. One of these is Eric Anthony Pulia, a 30- year-old University of Illinois at Chicago graduate, police officer, Illinois Army National Guard member, and 28th Ward Republican Committeeman.

Pulia also has served as a board member of the Tri-Taylor Community Association, which hosts regular meetings throughout the year to plan initiatives such as their annual Clean and Green community beautification event. The association also works on issues brought to its attention by residents or Alderman Jason Ervin’s 28th Ward office.

“I wanted to be a board member because I believe that, in order for communities to be truly successful, people have to take ownership of them and be involved and invested,” Pulia said. “This was my way to putting forward whatever talents I have to good use for the betterment of my community.”

The most pressing issues facing the community are “area beautification and crime,” he said. Concerning beautification, he said, “I like to start small and solve things that can actually have a simple solution. In certain parts of the neighborhood we have a serious litter problem and vacant lots that would benefit from development. I usually walk around my neighborhood around two to three hours a week and pick up litter and debris that ignorant people, who most of the time do not even live here and are just walking/driving through, so carelessly throw on the ground. 

“We also are not so unique that we are immune from the incredible uptick in crime that has affected the entire city since 2016, but overall we are a fairly safe area considering our geographic location,” he added.

Government and police

Pulia always had an interest in government, earning his Master of Public Administration degree from UIC in 2017. He has been a police officer since December 2012.

“I wanted to become a police officer because most everyone in my family is or was in law enforcement including my dad, brother, grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, and two cousins,” Pulia said. “They seemed to enjoy the work, and it seemed rewarding most importantly. It comes from an overall sense of duty and commitment to serve more than anything.

“When I went through the academy, there were two former Marines who acted as sort of drill instructors,” he recalled. “What stuck with me when I initially went through the academy is that things can go wrong very quickly in any police situation, no matter how routine it may seem.  It kind of hardens you a little and makes you hyper vigilant of your surroundings at all times.”

A great partner dynamic or a supervisor who makes the challenges worthwhile is what Pulia enjoys about police work. He noted that the “partner moments” make the job easy and, at times, hilarious.

“My partner and I complement each other well,” Pulia said. “He worked as a police officer in the Philippines before coming to Chicago and worked as a correctional officer in Cook County jail prior to CPD. You need a partner who can enhance your good character traits and help control your temper at stressful times. A lot of people say we remind them of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the movie Rush Hour.”

He recalled rushing to a crime “in progress” call during the midnight shift when, on the radio, the song Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds came on. “Even during this intense crazy situation while we were driving to an in progress call, shouting out directions, I noticed that both of us were singing along to the song,” Pulia said. “We both looked at each other and immediately started laughing uncontrollably. It’s the silly, stupid things on this job that make you laugh. You need to have that or the rough times will eat you alive.”

A UIC graduate with a Master’s degree in public administration, Eric Pulia is interested in community affairs.

Long hours

Particularly hard parts are the long hours and keeping connections alive. “I have lost touch with a lot of people over the years due to the demanding schedule and working odd hours which make you miss weekends and holidays,” Pulia said. “It is also hard that a lot of the public at least nowadays doesn’t seem to support the police as they did before. The public is so quick to judge situations that occur in the blink of an eye and often do not even know the full context or background of a police action which may seem textbook to us, but controversial to the public.”

Most important to police work is trusting your partner and remaining calm, Pulia said, noting, “Often times there is a lot of yelling and commotion on certain calls, and calming everyone down and figuring out what is occurring are challenging at times. I just learned to rely on my partners and other co-workers to assist when I am feeling overwhelmed and need to take a deep breath.”

One of the biggest challenges in fighting crime “is that our community spans two police districts” he said. “Once a potential offender or problem such as a gang conflict crosses Western Avenue [the border between districts], it can be difficult to coordinate. We suffer like most Chicago neighborhoods from crimes such as burglaries and robberies, and we are just as frustrated as the rest of the city with a lack of stiff prosecutions of these crimes from the Cook County State’s Attorney Office when these people are caught and the judges who hand out lenient sentences, which invite more of this behavior. 

“I know many community members who have obtained their concealed carry permits due to the lack of security they have felt, and I honestly cannot blame them,” Pulia added. “I also know many who have installed security cameras on their homes.”

Pulia noted that community members “are excited about the new Gateway 2020 project that is coming soon to Harrison and Ogden, which should bring an economic boom to our area, as well as the redevelopment of the former Cook County Hospital, which will undoubtedly have an impact on our area in terms of housing development and economic development.”

Eric Pulia, besides being an activist in the Tri-Taylor community, is a member of the Illinois National Guard.

National Guard Training

Pulia also finds his Army National Guard training helps give him the mental fortitude to be a community activist. His joining the guard “started off as a conversation with a co-worker who was considering joining. I had always wanted to join the military but for one reason or another never pulled the trigger, so to speak. I met with a recruiter and went through the long process of getting medically cleared and taking the entrance exam. I was in my last semester of graduate school when I was accepted to attend Army basic training and advanced individual training. It is a long process but well worth it. 

“The training can be long, grueling days with little sleep.” Pulia explained. “It teaches you discipline and how to push through no matter how tired or exhausted you are. Before you join the Army you never really know how far you can push yourself, and it definitely teaches you to go above and beyond what you thought was possible.

“What stuck with me after joining the military is that you must always be disciplined and place the mission first,” he said. “I also took away that America has some of the most patriotic and amazing young citizens who want to serve the people of the United States for the right reasons. The Army isn’t for everyone, but I sincerely believe that more people should consider joining for the education benefits and life experience. Given the extremely hard task in front of me, I still managed to graduate number one in my class, earning the distinction of honor graduate for having the highest academic grade point average in my class and qualifying physical fitness test scores.” 

He also has worked as a campaign staffer, and a Republican official approached him about being GOP ward committeeman. The primary focus is appointing election judges, to make the election process transparent and bi-partisan.  It is an unpaid, volunteer position. His term ends in March 2020. He hopes to run again in 2020.

Pulia’s future plans encompass politics, Tri-Taylor community activism, and more time with his family. “I have a wedding coming up next year and have been busy planning for that,” Pulia said. “Long term, I hope to work for the federal government in law enforcement in some way, perhaps with the Drug Enforcement Administration or Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.” He also may run for office.

Concerning the new Tri-Taylor Neighborhood Watch Group (see article, page 1), Pulia said, “I know the group is coordinating with the police districts that cover Tri-Taylor. I am personally all for it, and hope it grows into a real community watch program with actual results in the future.”

For more about the Tri-Taylor Community Association, log on to tritaylor.community.