Retiring Naperville Park Police officer honored for 40 years of law enforcement service

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In one form or another, Naperville Park Police Officer Arzania “Zook” Williams has been serving Naperville since the mid-1980s. As he closes out his career and reflects on his time working in multiple agencies, Williams has been presented with several awards and commendations.

Naperville ‘one of the best places to be in the country,’ says Williams

Williams said he is overcome with gratitude to Naperville’s leaders, residents, and the business community for their part in fostering such a rich and fulfilling career.

“I’ve never been held back with my opportunities to advance in this city,” Williams said at Thursday’s Naperville Park Board meeting. “This is one of the best places to be in the country, and I hope you guys don’t take that for granted. We have a wonderful place to live, and a wonderful place to work, and with that, I’m glad to have been a part of it.”

Williams recognized for decades of service

The Naperville Park Board recognized Williams for his decade of service as an officer of the local parks as he prepares for retirement with a certificate of recognition. The Naperville Police Department also presented Williams with a meritorious service award.

Mayor Scott Wehrli, Naperville Park District Police Chief Steve Schindlbeck, and Naperville Police Chief Jason Arres were on hand at Thursday’s recognition ceremony.

Williams previously served on the City of Naperville’s Police Department in the preceding three decades and gained notoriety for his affinity toward mentoring and training officers and fostering positive relationships with people in the community.

In presenting Williams with the meritorious service award, Arres indicated it is one of the highest honors a sworn officer can receive. Williams’ recognition, Arres said, is based on the various roles he has played in the community — including a patrol officer and detective — and for giving “blood, sweat and tears to this community in two different roles of law enforcement.”

“For everything you’ve done, Zook, you have more than earned this meritorious service award,” Arres said. “Thanks for everything you did, and all of your service to the community. It’s very much appreciated, my friend.”

Breaking barriers as first person of color to join NPD

Wehrli, who worked in law enforcement before assuming the role of mayor, recounted his role as a police explorer at the time Williams joined the department. Wehrli in his commendation of Williams noted he was the first person of color to join the Naperville Police Department.

“You broke barriers in our city, and you will always be remembered for the quality of work and your dedication to everything you’ve done to serve our community,” Wehrli said.

Speaking to his professionalism, Wehrli added, “What always inspired me — especially seeing somebody who had so much experience — was your demeanor with people, how you listened to them, how you made them laugh, how you treated others and how you put yourself out there at a time in your career where you chose service over self.”

Closing out career with the Naperville Park Police 

As for the final leg of his career, Schindlbeck said Williams has been a great asset to the Naperville Park District Police Department.

“Whenever I needed somebody, if I was short, you were one of the persons we called because you were always available, and you were always willing to come in and work, regardless of whether it was a weekend or a special event or even a holiday,” Schindlebeck said. “Trust me, that didn’t go unnoticed.”

Schindlebeck presented Williams with a shadow box to commemorate his 10 years of service with the group.

Honored to serve for ‘integral part of the community’

Williams said he was honored to close out his career working for the Naperville Park District, which he described as “an integral part of this community.”

Looking back on the decade, Williams highlighted several pivotal moments that gave him an opportunity to work with his former colleagues on the city police department through collaborative working arrangements.

“When the tornado hit the south side of Naperville, I was working that night, and we were down there — myself and other officers — assisting the city with relocating the residents and keeping a sense of security, in terms of keeping people from getting electrocuted from all of the downed electrical wires,” Williams said.

He also found himself working closely with the Naperville Police Department in 2020.

“I’ve been involved in some things I never expected a park district officer to do, such as when we had the civil unrest in town,” Williams said. “We were side-by-side with our brothers at the Naperville Police Department on the front lines.”

Photo courtesy: Naperville Park District

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