Hilliard Northwest News

Longtime Hilliard police lieutenant to retire this week

Robert Parkey served city more than 32 years

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KEVIN CORVO/THISWEEKNEWS
Lt. Bob Parkey will retire from the Hilliard Division of Police on June 7 after more than 32 years of service.
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Lt. Bob Parkey has a Sharp adding machine on his desk and carries a flip-style cell phone in his uniform pocket.

"I'm a Flintstone stuck in a Jetson world," Parkey, 55, said of the technological advances that have occurred in his more than 32 years with the Hilliard Division of Police.

Despite his aversion to smartphones and iPads, Parkey said, such advances have made law enforcement more efficient and safer for the officer in the field.

Parkey, who will retire Friday, June 7, joined the Hilliard Division of Police on Dec. 1, 1980.

"Looking back from now, our policing seemed antiquated ... but it didn't seem that way to us then, of course," Parkey said.

Police had no "real-time" sharing of any information, and no K-9 units or air support were available, Parkey said.

Today, virtually any kind of information can be instantly shared not only among Hilliard's officers but those of other agencies, Parkey said.

"It's a challenge for me, but you have to embrace it," Parkey said. "(New technology) helps us be more efficient ... and identify crime trends."

After serving under three mayors, three police chiefs and seven safety directors, Parkey will retire as the most senior member of the police division.

"I don't know how retirement works," Parkey said. "I've never retired before."

He has had one kind of full-time job or another since he was 15, when he tagged merchandise and swept floors at Gordon Keith's Decorative Supply Barn on Harrison Avenue, near the Hilltop area of Columbus' West Side.

After graduating from West High School in 1975, Parkey spent five years working as a security guard for Lazarus and Co.

He wanted a more stable job and took civil service examinations for a police officer at multiple central Ohio departments.

Hilliard was the first to call him, and he and his wife, Cindy, bought a house in Hilliard.

"I not only worked here, but raised a family here and served the community," Parkey said. "(It's where) the majority of my friends and family call home, too."

Unlike today, in 1980 officers joined a department and then attended an academy for certification. Parkey graduated as part of the 45th class of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy.

At the time, the department had seven other officers, not including supervisors.

Today, the Hilliard Division of Police has 31 officers, not including supervisors and support staff.

Parkey was promoted to sergeant in 1988 and to lieutenant in 1993.

For all but four years as lieutenant, he served as commander of field operations, or the patrol bureau, and became a nationally certified traffic crash expert.

For 13 years, Parkey was the only Hilliard officer who reconstructed serious and fatal accidents and was occasionally called as an expert witness to testify in fatal crashes outside Hilliard.

The expertise included the grim duty of notifying family members, including three juveniles who were killed in a railroad grade-crossing accident in 1992 on Davidson Road, and a triple-fatality, cross-over crash in 2004 on Interstate 270.

Parkey also is a state certified police instructor, having served as a field training officer for 12 of Hilliard's current officers.

Parkey said he hopes he instilled in each of them the belief that every call is equally important no matter the purpose, both for service to the caller and the safety of the officer.

"What might seem trivial to an officer can at the same time be a life-altering event for the person who called police," Parkey said.

Treating every call as such not only provides people with the attention they deserve, but also prevents an officer from becoming complacent on the job.

Parkey said he will be anything but complacent during his retirement, as he looks to secure a part-time job and step up his volunteer and service activity at the Hilliard Food Pantry and the Hilliard Church of Christ.

He also will have additional time to tune his guitar.

About 10 years ago, Parkey began performing publicly, recruiting several fellow musicians into That Band, a bluegrass-tinged group that most recently performed at Heritage Day in Plain City and the Ox Roast in West Jefferson.

Joining Parkey were John Hall, director of lands and buildings for Hilliard; Roy Hamby, a code enforcement officer in Whitehall; and Ben Bayer, a member of the Hilliard Church of Christ.

"It's not a retirement job, but I have fun with it," said Parkey, noting the band usually performs free of charge.

While Parkey did not follow in the footsteps of any relatives into law enforcement, his son, Robert, is a Columbus police officer and a 1998 graduate of Hilliard High School.

Parkey and his wife, Cindy, also have a daughter, Mary Beth, a 2005 Davidson graduate, and three grandsons.

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