By Bob Uphues
The Brookfield Police Department is about to get some much-needed reinforcements in the form of four new patrol officers who will soon be graduating from the police academy.
Their arrival will give a boost to a department that as of last week was short eight police officers – a quarter of its full strength roster -- due to a combination of retirements, a long-term injury, active military duty and medical issues that have cropped up in the past couple of years.
Next week, the village clerk is slated to swear in the four new officers, who will begin their 18-month probationary periods. Three of the four, C.J. Duffek, Hasan Majthoub and Thomas Cichon are in their 20s, while the fourth is 35-year-old Freddy Vargas, who is a U.S. Marine veteran with two tours of duty overseas.
Duffek, the son of Brookfield Fire Chief Mark Duffek, qualified at the top of the department's hiring list. Duffek and Cichon, both 24, were classmates at Riverside-Brookfield High School. Majthoub is the youngest new officer at 23 years old.
"It's a great thing; it's neat to see," said Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak. "A young group brings a lot of enthusiasm, and the older officers take them under their wings."
If all goes smoothly, the new officers will end their field training period and be on their own sometime in January 2020, said Petrak. In addition, Officer Charles Reed, who has been on active military duty with the U.S. Air Force in the Middle East since last November, is due back in Brookfield later this month.
Reed, who was hired in 2018, was just finishing off his field training period when he was called to active military duty.
"We really will have five new people," said Petrak.
The department will also see the return to full duty of veteran Sgt. Ray Paton, who has been out of action since July 2018 after suffering a shoulder injury while on duty. Another officer who had been out for medical reasons is back on light duty, and will be able to resume full duties within a couple of months, Petrak said.
With the arrival of the new hires and the return of the other officers, Petrak will soon begin turning his attention to selecting a deputy chief, a post that has sat vacant since Petrak was elevated to chief in April.
Down so many officers, said Petrak, "it was hard to promote somebody."
Petrak said he is opening the deputy position to the entire department instead of handpicking his replacement in that post. Former Police Chief James Episcopo picked Petrak as his deputy, and the two were sworn in together in those posts.
"Jim and I came up together, and our personalities really meshed well," Petrak said. "I don't have someone who came up side by side with me."
Petrak said he will interview candidates for the deputy chief's job later this month and plans on announcing his choice for that position and other promotions in September.
With the retirement earlier this year of Episcopo, Petrak is now the oldest officer on the force at 52. The last time the police department saw so many new officers hired at one time was back in 2003, after a successful referendum to fund the hiring of additional police and firefighters.
It was an older department back then, especially before the hiring of the new officers in 2003. A year earlier, the average age of a police officer in Brookfield was around 40 years old.
The command staff, in particular was older, averaging 51 years of age. Sergeants were typically in their mid-40s.
In 2019, the average age of command staff is a little less than 44 years old, while sergeants are mainly in their late 30s.