MATTOON — While Sullivan native Ked Houser was a Lake Land College student, he spent time as an intern with the Mattoon Police Department.
The 2011 graduate of Sullivan High School, who is the son of Tom and Elizabeth Houser, said he got the opportunity to ride along with Mattoon patrol officers and to observe detectives and dispatchers at work during his internship.
"That is when I figured out I wanted to work there, after I did my internship," Houser said of the Mattoon Police Department. "That is how I got to know a lot of the guys there. They are incredible people to work with."
Houser said he also had gotten to know Mattoon officers through his father, who is an Illinois State Police lieutenant and a past commander of the Mattoon-based East Central Illinois Task Force drug investigation unit.
On Dec. 8, Houser achieved his professional goal of working for the Mattoon department when he joined its ranks as a patrol officer. He previously worked as a patrol officer with the Arthur Police Department and, prior to that, as a plainclothes officer with the Vermilion County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (VMEG) drug investigation unit.
Houser said he applied for a job with VMEG at the suggestion of his father. Being part of VMEG gave him a whole new perspective on law enforcement work, Houser said. He noted that he got to work undercover with VMEG, ride in an Illinois State Police surveillance airplane, and partner across state lines with officers from the Indiana State Police.
"Not many people can say they started their law enforcement career by getting to work narcotics," Houser said. "I definitely think what I learned over there I can apply over here in Mattoon."
Houser began his law enforcement career by working as a dispatcher for the Sullivan Police Department while attending Lake Land, where he earned an associate’s in criminal justice, and then Eastern Illinois University, where he earned a bachelor’s in organizational and professional development. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute.
The Mattoon City Council voted on Nov. 20 to approve the police department employing Houser.
Mattoon Chief Jason Taylor said Houser is a high-quality officer who brings a variety of law enforcement experience with him to the police department.
"(Houser) has an outstanding demeanor, he’s shown great aptitude for public service, and he works very well with people from all walks of life. He will definitely be an asset for the City of Mattoon. I’m very pleased to have him join this department," Taylor said.