Yolanda Harris Sayre is an attorney, adjudicator and problem solver. She currently serves as Legal Counsel for the Illinois State Police, where she practices litigation and administrative, employment, and civil rights law. Yolanda’s career began with the Texas Attorney General’s office where she worked for three years during law school and learned the fundamentals of litigation. Practicing with a student bar card, she sued fraudulent bankers and insurers winning millions of dollars for the people of Texas. After working at several large law firms and opting against that lifestyle, she was selected by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) as an original civilian trainer of Community Policing and Diversity Management. She taught large groups of community members and police officers how to work together to solve problems including crime and disorder.
In 1999, she was promoted to the position of Attorney becoming the first African American to serve in that position at CPD. There, she taught 18,000+ law enforcement officers 92 different legal topics, including: Arrest, Search & Seizure, Evidence, Civil Rights & Liability, Use of Force, Laws of Admissions, Rights of the Accused, Juvenile Law and Firearm Laws. Because Yolanda developed significant expertise in criminal law and procedure, she was called to testify both as an expert witness and a consulting expert in state and federal cases, depositions and trials. Assigned to the Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform, her mission was to improve the criminal justice system and police / community relations.
Yolanda also spent ten years as an Administrative Law Judge and presided over formal administrative hearings for the Chicago and Cook County Electoral Boards. In that capacity, she made hundreds of evidentiary rulings and ruled on hundreds of motions. She authored many written opinions which were adopted and published online. She also served two years as a contract Prosecutor, representing the Illinois Secretary of State in more than one hundred formal administrative hearings involving license suspensions and revocations related to DUI’s, reckless homicides and fraud cases. Yolanda is an Executive Board member of the Illinois Association of Administrative Law Judges and is an active member of several bar associations. In her constant effort to help improve the justice system, she has volunteered for pro bono projects such as teaching Continuing Legal Education classes to both criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors, providing free legal advice to community residents, and serving as an attorney in Expungement Summits to help people obtain housing and employment by clearing their records. In addition, Yolanda volunteered with the Pro Bono Jury Program for the First Municipal District. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and coordinated many community service initiatives including projects in several villages in Africa.
Yolanda earned her Bachelor’s in Economics and Finance from State University of New York – College at Buffalo. She graduated from the University of Texas- Austin School of Law and earned a Graduate Certificate in Training and Performance Management from Saint Xavier University-Chicago.
Yolanda is as culturally diverse as she is professionally diverse. She is of African American, Belgian and French heritage. She spent much of her childhood in Latin America where she became fluent in Spanish. She is a resident of Bronzeville, in Chicago.