Ill. man with cerebral palsy achieves dream of becoming police officer

The 42-year-old was sworn in as an honorary member of the Morton Auxiliary Police Department


By Phil Luciano
Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.

MORTON, Ill. — Growing up in a law-enforcement family, Zack Taylor wanted to be a cop since childhood, but cerebral palsy long stood in his way.

That changed Tuesday night, when the 42-year-old was sworn in as an honorary member of the Morton Auxiliary Police Department. Soon, he'll be helping with crowd control and other police duties in the village.

"No one deserves this more than Zack," says brother Nick Taylor, 34, a Pekin police officer. "He has a great work ethic. And he's got the most upbeat attitude."

Zack Taylor is the oldest child of Deborah Taylor (a hospital nurse) and Clyde Taylor (a detective with the Tazewell County Sheriff's Office). When she was pregnant with Zack, a car accident left him with cerebral palsy, compromising his mental and physical abilities since birth.

"He can talk and interact," his brother says. "But the mental disability held him back. And to walk, he has to use braces."

In his youth, Zack Taylor used to marvel at his father, then a patrol officer, who would come home in full uniform and recount his work day. Moreover, other relatives served with other police departments, further fueling the boy's police fascination.

"Zack was really drawn to law enforcement," his brother says. "He just took a liking to it."

As a kid, Zack Taylor would often listen to a police scanner and watch cop shows. He longed to become a police officer.

"As soon as he could grow a mustache, he grew one, just like the old-time cops," his brother says. "And he loved coffee and doughnuts, just hanging around cops."

At his parents' home, his room brimmed with police decor.

"Everything about Zack is 'cop,'" his brother said.

However, because of cerebral palsy, he could not join the police ranks. Still, he joyfully watched as brother Nick Taylor donned a blue uniform and, recently, as brother Joel Taylor, 25, became part of the force in East Peoria. Meanwhile, Zack Taylor, who stays with his family on weekends, focused on his weekday work and other activities at his group home in Morton.

"He's got his own life there," Nick Taylor says. "And he has chores and things like that."

Still, Nick Taylor got an an idea. He talked to some friends at the Morton Police Department, who in turn chatted with Chief Craig Hilliard. The force has an auxiliary unit of 20-plus officers who assist with traffic flow, crowd control and other duties at village events such as the Morton Pumpkin Festival, parades and fireworks. Those officers undergo police training and carry firearms, though they do not have the power to make arrests.

Hilliard thought Zack Taylor might be a valuable addition to that unit. So, on Tuesday night, Zack Taylor was sworn in as an honorary member of the Morton Auxiliary Police Department.

"He has always wanted to be a police officer," Hilliard says. "It was very exciting."

Brother Nick Taylor attended the ceremony with a contingent of relatives and well-wishers who offered plenty of applause.

"It was outstanding," he says.

How did the ceremony make Zack Taylor feel?

"Neat!" he says. "Very happy."

Though Zack Taylor won't carry a sidearm, he will ride along in patrol cars and golf carts to help serve the public at village gatherings. And he will wear a police uniform with a police badge.

"I can help people," he says.

In advance, thank you for your service, Officer Taylor.

©2019 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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