Given a choice, Ezekiel Williams could easily skip a movie or family cookout to be with the Newark Police Explorers.
Ever since he walked through the doors of Post 2808, the auxiliary program that exposes young people to law enforcement, the idea of becoming a police officer fit Williams like a well-pressed uniform when he joined four years ago.
Williams, who was 15 years old at the time, knew he wanted to be a cop, and the Explorers, modeled after the Newark Police Division, was the ticket to his dream job.
“I had this image in my mind as early as I could remember,” said Williams, who sees himself as a symbol of hope, much like his hero — Superman. “I want to be like Superman because he’s a symbol of hope in terms of wanting to help people and doing the right thing. I’m trying to be that person, that symbol of hope.”
The Explorers’ leadership saw that value in Williams — that truth and justice were not just concepts. His fellow Explorers did, too. He moved with purpose and direction to be so young, rising through organizational ranks from explorer and cadet to sergeant, lieutenant, and eventually, captain.
“He’d rather be in the company of law enforcement officers instead of hanging out,” said Newark Detective Robert Moore, who runs the program with Detective Latoya Young-Dunlap.
He can be around them all the time now.
Williams, 19, became a Newark police officer in January when he graduated from the police academy with 55 recruits during a ceremony at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
“It just felt right,” Williams said. “It’s a start of new beginnings. It’s the start of something amazing.”
When Williams hit the streets, it was an assignment he’d been looking forward to since this journey began with the Explorers. Among those who know him, Williams is “the guy who will stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, the guy who will make things right if it’s within his power,” Moore says.
As the youngest member of Police Class 131, Williams is probably one of the city’s most well-known newest officers to take the oath. Williams talks to everybody, his affable personality contagious and engaging, his conversation crisp as the crease in his slacks.
He had no idea that then-Lieutenant Colonel Fritz Fragé of the New Jersey State Police would eventually be his boss when they met in 2021 at a Newark Police awards ceremony. Fragé, who is now the director of the Newark Department of Public Safety, could tell Williams was a popular, respected young man.
“Everybody knows him by his first name,” Director Fragé said. “He’s a kid who really wants to be a cop. That’s been his dream for the longest.”
Even during the police graduation, he was singled out in remarks from State Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). Ruiz, one of many speakers, talked about how impressed she was with the class during a December food drive and that one of its members stood out to her when he introduced himself.
“It was clear to me that day that I saw the best asset that we have in this state and in this city,” Ruiz said. “There was a young man there who really took me aback, who is graduating today. He said, ‘It’s nice to see you, you spoke at my Arts High School graduation.’”
Many in the sanctuary knew it was Williams, who has left an indelible mark on others, including city officials and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Essex County Sheriff’s officers and investigators from the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office know him, too.
None of these experiences would have happened without the Explorers and his dad, Daniel Williams of Newark, whom Ezekiel admires. A former Marine and New Jersey corrections officer, his father sought out the Explorers when he could see early on that his boy seemed destined for a law enforcement career.
“His demeanor was that of a person in the military,” Mr. Williams said. “He had this upright posture. He just blew me away with the way he started standing up. He would stand like a soldier.”
Parental instincts led his son to the Explorers, which is more than an organization that builds character, self-esteem and leaders.
It’s a family. Detective Moore is Williams’ godfather and Detective Young-Dunlap is his godmother, endearing titles that Mr. Williams believes they deserve. They immediately saw Williams’ potential and stayed in his ear with encouragement.
“He has this drive to want more, to do more,” Young-Dunlap said. “He’s always wanted to do more, be more. There’s nothing that this kid can’t do.”
Last year, he was selected to march with the U.S. Army at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. In the fall, Williams will study diplomacy and international relations at Seton Hall University. Somehow, he’ll continue training to be a pilot with the Eagle Flight Squadron of East Orange. On the ground, Williams is a fitness workhorse, who plays the double bass string instrument and finds solace in comic book pages about his hero — Superman.
With the Explorers, Williams’ enthusiasm and drive for excellence have been unmatched. At Newark Police community service events, his energy level goes up another notch and even higher leading the color guard unit during parades. When it came to reciting the Explorers code, Williams memorized the piece far ahead of the required 30 days. The newest members take the code seriously, too, with Williams providing guidance and instruction.
After an evening of physical training in January, the cadets lined up, and Williams had one of the members lead the platoon. He interjected periodically to explain the cadence and how the cadet should project his voice for others to follow. It’s easy to see why the Explorers look up to Williams. He’s disciplined, pays attention to detail and cares about them.
“He makes sure we’re good,” said Monica Brodie, 15. “If I need something, I know I can go to him. If there is something I’ve got to ask him, I know he’ll have the answer right away.”
That’s Williams. Always accountable, thoughtful and responsible, character traits he’ll bring to a job he’s wanted for a long time. Thinking about that gives him reason to pause and reflect.
After graduation, he smiled for pictures with family and friends, an emotional moment for all who have seen his development. He stood there, taking in the achievement, unleashing a smile as big as his heart that Newark residents will get to know in the 2nd Precinct.
“It’s been a journey and a ride that I want to keep riding,” Williams said. “I’m just getting started.”