CPD veteran lifts more than his community and breaks state bench press record

Officer Tommy Harrison, a veteran of the Chicago Police Department, attempted to set a new state bench press record with 1,050 pounds.

But his inner tenacity is also admirable.

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

Then came his family of powerlifters.

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

Harrison’s story was first reported by WGN News in December 2021, when he first attempted the record-setting lift. Harrison described his tenure on the job and his efforts to give back to the children of Englewood through an annual toy drive.

But perhaps an equal or greater accomplishment is teaching his mentees the importance of tenacity.

The bench press in 2021 failed. In recent years, Harrison has even blown out his arm twice due to lifting. The married father of two boys stated that failure was not an option.

“Being from Englewood, having graduated from Englewood, and continuing to do charity work for Englewood, I just learned to grind as a child, and my mother played a significant role in that,” he said. “Just never quit. If I can breathe and am physically fit, I should be able to proceed. I could complain about my arm, but then I would see someone without one. That was my driving force.”

So, with his spotters by his side, 1,008 pounds of iron and steel pressing down on his chest were no match for Tommy Harrison, one of Chicago’s Very Own and holder of the title: Bench Press Masters’ World Record, as well as the first African American to lift more than 1,000 pounds.

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