Michael Kuruvilla is sworn in as Brookfield police chief during the July 12 meeting of the village’s board of trustees. (Bob Uphues/Editor)

Michael Kuruvilla was sworn in as Brookfield’s new police chief during a ceremony July 12 that drew an overflow crowd at the Brookfield Village Hall, the largest gathering in the council chamber in a year.

He replaces Edward Petrak, who was also honored for his 31 years of service to the village as he retires from the police department. Village President Michael Garvey read a proclamation noting Petrak’s achievements as a police officer, and the village’s Citizens Police Academy also presented a token of appreciation.

In remarks following the presentation, Petrak, who wore civilian clothes for the occasion, thanked village officials and residents for their support throughout the years, but made a point of shifting the spotlight away from himself.

“This night is about Mike [Kuruvilla],” Petrak said. “I’ve been around many leaders in my long career and Brookfield has found one of the very best in law enforcement.”

Kuruvilla’s wife, Sibil, and two young children stood beside him as Village Clerk Brigid Weber swore in the new chief.

Afterward, Kuruvilla revealed that his wife who like her husband has a master’s degree in social work, encouraged him to pursue being a caseworker for the Brookfield police department, which turned out to be his entrée into the police profession.

“You were the one who attended Brookfield’s [case worker] orientation with me and told me after the meeting that this is where you thought I would flourish,” Kuruvilla said. “Boy, was that an understatement.”

Kuruvilla reiterated that becoming a police officer was not necessarily what he set his sights on when choosing a career path in social work. But, there was one particular aspect that appealed to him, he said.

“I believe in public service,” Kuruvilla said. “I knew from childhood I wanted to do something that would serve people. I just didn’t know or think that pursuit of law enforcement was really an option for me.

“But, not coincidentally, it provided me the pathway to pursue my education to a master’s degree in social work that my wife also shares and in some ways brought us together.”

Kuruvilla is the first person of color to lead the Brookfield Police Department and one of the very few Indian-Americans to lead a police agency in the United States. His appointment to the position made headlines in India, including an article in the popular Indian weekly news magazine India Today and the nation’s daily newspaper of record, The Times of India.

A half dozen Indian-American officers from area police departments including Chicago, Palatine, Bensenville and others were among those attending Kuruvilla’s swearing-in ceremony on July 12.