By Bob Uphues
Edward Petrak, a 29-year veteran of the Brookfield Police Department and deputy chief of police since late 2015, is the village's newest police chief.
Village Manager Timothy Wiberg told the Landmark in a phone interview April 16 that he'd chosen Petrak to succeed Chief James Episcopo, who is retiring effective April 19.
"As deputy chief for the last three years he's seen up close and personal what it's like to be chief," said Wiberg. "His respect within the community and of the community is phenomenal."
Petrak, 53, was one of two internal candidates interviewed for the top job. The other was Lt. James Burdett, who is head of the department's investigations division.
"Both candidates were excellent," Wiberg said.
Petrak will be sworn in as chief at the village board's meeting on April 22. Wiberg said he'll meet with Petrak next week to talk about who might be moving into the deputy chief's office.
As for his elevation to chief, Petrak said he was "excited about the opportunity, and grateful and humbled by it."
"When I was hired 29 years ago, I just wanted to do my best to serve Brookfield," Petrak said. "While I aspired to be chief, I never knew if that day would come."
A Riverside native and graduate of Quigley South High School, Petrak attended Southern Illinois University where he first thought he might major in journalism before taking a course in criminal justice.
"I got hooked,' Petrak said.
He graduated from SIU in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in administration of justice. The following year he was hired as a patrol officer in Brookfield. He worked as the department's youth officer from 1999-2003 and was promoted to sergeant in 2001, working as a detective for two years before being promoted to lieutenant watch commander.
In 2008, Petrak's role shifted to administrative lieutenant, a job he held down until being named deputy chief by Episcopo, overseeing day-to-day operations of the police department.
He graduated from the FBI National Academy, a prestigious leadership training program, in 2015.
Like the man he replaces, Petrak is a steady, soft-spoken leader. Asked what a new police officer could expect from him as chief, Petrak said, "It's about helping those below you reach their goals and potential. I think they'd expect I'd be fair with them and be about making them a better police officer."
As for community expectations, Petrak said his philosophy is grounded in the concept of community policing, which was an important part of his training as an officer.
"Residents can expect that we will continue with our longstanding practice of community-oriented policing," Petrak said. "We're police officers with a special sense of service. That's something the community will continue to see."
Episcopo, who in retirement will actually be taking on a new full-time job as a regional planning coordinator for the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS), a police mutual aid network, said Petrak would thrive as chief.
Hired by the Brookfield Police Department in 1987, Episcopo worked closely with Petrak for two-plus decades, and he hand-picked Petrak to be his deputy chief in 2015. Their views on policing and leadership were so closely aligned that Episcopo insisted they be sworn in together in those roles.
"I'm just proud of him. … He and I are like brothers," Episcopo said. "It's great he's getting the opportunity the way I did."