by Zoe Musselman
Malika Rahman ’14 SCPS graduated from Chestnut Hill College in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and today, at age 32, she is running for Philadelphia sheriff.
On May 21, the ballots for sheriff will be cast. If Rahman wins, she will be the first woman, as well as the first woman of color, to hold the title of sheriff in Philadelphia history.
During Rahman’s time at the College, she was working full-time as deputy sheriff for the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office; in 2017, she reached the rank of deputy sheriff’s detective. Although she did not always think she would have a job in law enforcement, her time spent working as a corrections officer for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons paved the way for her interest in working for the sheriff’s department.
Rahman commented on her career progression by saying that “exposure helps, and your ability to see representation that looks like you,” adding that doors open as a result of being in the field.
Rahman’s voice lit up as she talked about what inspired her to run for sheriff. She noted a lack of understanding between the sheriff’s office and the public that she feels is integral in enacting positive change in communities.
“Knowing myself, knowing the quality of leadership that I possess, I knew I was the best candidate for the job,” Rahman said. “Because of the training, the education, and the experience that I have, combined with my dedication to service, that’s what makes a good leader.”
Rahman resigned from her job with the city of Philadelphia in December 2018 in order to “run and be that change for the people.” She expressed the importance of connecting with the public.
“I could give them something to look forward to, to be confident in terms of leadership in the office and not just another politician who’s coming around and asking for a vote without actually doing something effective for the people who are voting for them,” she said.
When asked if she could have foreseen herself running for sheriff, Rahman laughed and said, “No! Not at all!” She stands by the belief, however, that this is the best thing she has ever done in her life.
“If somebody reads this interview and they say, ‘Wow, I would’ve never thought that going to Chestnut Hill [College] or being a student at this school or being here would have even equated to an opportunity to make history.' If Dr. Elaine Green reads this article and says, ‘I taught her, I remember that day.’ That is a beautiful thing. That’s the thing that makes all of our sacrifices and all of our effort worthwhile,” she said.
As to why she decided to attend Chestnut Hill College, Rahman reminisced about her first visit to campus and explained how the welcoming and nostalgic atmosphere caught her attention. She then described how integral it was that her professors had been, or were currently, working in the criminal justice field. She mentioned how big of an impact this had on her education.
“Having instructors that actually are a part of the law enforcement community of some sort and have actually worked in real-life positions and have that real-life experience to share with you, it helps you get past the bookwork, because law enforcement is more than the fundamentals that are black and white,” Rahman said. “It’s actually about applying those lessons, applying those tools, and applying those skills and actually understanding what the job is.”
No matter the outcome of the election, it is safe to say that Chestnut Hill College is proud of Rahman for all her accomplishments and for wanting to serve the public in such a monumental leadership role.