Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak made it a trifecta of retirements among villages covered by the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, announcing Monday he was stepping down as chief effective July 12 after serving as a police officer for 31 years.
He follows in the footsteps of Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel, who retired May 20, and North Riverside Police Chief Carlos Garcia, who confirmed he’s retiring later this summer.
“I started young,” said Petrak, 54, who was hired as a Brookfield police officer in 1990 at the age of 23. “I had thought about it last year, but I wanted to wait at least two years after being named chief.”
Petrak, a Riverside native, had been promoted to chief in April 2019 after serving as deputy chief under Chief James Episcopo since 2015. Episcopo personally recommended Petrak to be his successor.
“That I got to go out and be able to hand it off to him means a lot to me,” Episcopo told the Landmark in 2019. “He and I are like brothers.”
Like Episcopo, Petrak’s demeanor is quiet and thoughtful, traits Village Manager Timothy Wiberg, whose job it will be to pick Petrak’s successor, said were “invaluable.”
“In the two years Ed has been chief – through a pandemic, potential civil unrest, an uncertain economy and the public attention placed on police departments – Ed’s been unflappable,” Wiberg said. “He’s low-key, thoughtful, reflective. You couldn’t ask for a better chief. He’s shown a remarkable ability to lead his staff.”
Petrak graduated from Quigley South High School and graduated in 1989 with a degree in administration of justice from Southern Illinois University. He joined the Brookfield Police Department the following year.
What impacted his approach to policing the most, he said, was being named the department’s youth officer. He ran the department’s DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for a decade and later started and won Proviso Township grant funding for the LETS WIN (Law Enforcement Teachers Students Working Interacting Now) program at S.E. Gross Middle School, where it continues to aim to provide positive interactions between police and kids and their families.
“When I became the juvenile officer here, it changed my path,” Petrak said. “In teaching DARE, it wasn’t so much keeping kids off drugs but connecting with kids and their families in a way that made a difference.”
Petrak said he is exploring other opportunities outside of sworn law enforcement, and indicated he has already applied for at least one job that could begin later this summer.
Since being named as chief, and knowing that he likely would be retiring within a couple of years, Petrak has also spent time making sure his command staff are prepared to pick up the torch.
Petrak said he’s recommending that Deputy Chief Michael Kuruvilla as his successor, though he knows Wiberg has the final word.
“Tim asked for my thoughts, and in the end it’s Tim’s decision,” Petrak said. “We just have a great, talented bench of people here and for years and years to come.”
Wiberg told the Landmark he intends seek applications from inside the police department, for now.
“I’m not ready to announce anything yet, but [Kuruvilla] would sure seem to be the logical way to go,” Wiberg said. “I’ll be posting the job internally first and see what that results in.”