There was a time when everybody in Naperville knew Robert Worthel, in fact, his name is prominently displayed just outside of the Naperville Police Department, along with the names of 11 other police department employees, including seven Naperville police officers who died while employed by the city.
Robert Worthel was the Naperville police chief in 1917. He died on September 5, 1917, in the line of duty while responding to the scene of an armed robbery. His motorcycle was struck by a motorist who turned in front of him at Washington and School streets. He was 34 and had been with the department for five years. He was survived by his wife.
Exactly 100 years later, Sargent James Galvan of the Richton Park Police Department read Chief Worthel’s story during roll call on Sept 5th, 2017 to honor him; an act of reverence and appreciation for a fellow officer.
Police officers put themselves in potentially dangerous situations on a daily basis, while protecting us. They run towards what most of us run away from. We read about and see it occasionally in media, but not nearly as often as it actually happens. FBI statistics for 2018 report that 53 law officers were killed by offenders while on duty, and an additional 51 officers died accidentally on the job. These numbers are up by 10% from 2017.
Naperville’s Riverwalk is considered to be the ‘gem of Naperville’, however there is another ‘gem of Naperville’ and it’s the Naperville Police Department. Under the leadership of Chief Robert Marshall, along with Deputy Chiefs Jason Arries, and Kathy Anderson, they have assembled an outstanding team of 271 employees including 169 sworn police officers. The Department has won numerous awards for its endeavors. While other police departments are seeing a decline of candidates for employment (unfortunately a sign of the times) Naperville is seeing an increase of candidates. With the possibility of 71 department employees being eligible for retirement shortly, high quality candidates are necessary to fill those positions.
Naperville’s police department has earned the reputation for being ‘the choice destination’ for law enforcement officers, not because of the low crime rate, but because the department “does it right”, all the way from recruiting and interviewing, to training, recognition, and opportunity. I spoke with a high ranking officer of the Hanover Park Police Department and their pool of candidates is down, not nearly enough to fill its needs. He acknowledged that the NPD is the preferred destination in the Chicago area.
While other cities are squeezing the budgets for their police departments, Naperville city officials have maintained a good budget for its police department, however if better is possible, then ‘good’ is not enough.
If I were the ‘King of Naperville’, I would make two proclamations. My second proclamation would be for the Naperville Police Department to have a new Command Vehicle. If Lombard and Glendale Heights each have one, then the NPD surely has earned one.
My first proclamation would be that the NPD should have and needs to have a Bearcat vehicle. Yes, it’s an expense but if each Naperville resident chipped in $1.75, that would be enough to make it happen. Better yet, Naperville city officials could reallocate some dollars spent on recycling and it’s leaf collection program for the purchase of a Bearcat vehicle.
The name ‘BearCat’ stands for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. Bearcats are armored rescue vehicles with their primary use being to transport tactical (SWAT / Special Reaction Teams) officers to and from hostile situations and assist with the recovery and protection of civilians in harm’s way during terrorist threats, hostage incidents, or encounters with large gatherings of aggressors.
Police departments including Naperville’s need all the help and support they can get, because the help and support they get, is used to help and support the rest of us. Makes sense doesn’t it.
Just as Sgt. James Galvan of the Richton Park Police Department honored Naperville’s Police Chief Robert Worthel, Naperville city officials could honor Chief Worthel by naming the Bearcat “The Robert Worthel Bearcat”. That’s doing the right thing, and doing it with class.
(This is the first part of a three-part series about the Naperville Police Department. The second part will cover the NPD’s Mission Statement, its Values, Department initiatives, and critical issues. The final part will cover Naperville’s outstanding Citizen Police Academy).