Hilliard’s Bob Parkey wraps up 40 years in law enforcement

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

The professionalism of uniformed police officers observed by Lt. Bob Parkey inspired him to join the Hilliard Division of Police in 1980 – and stay active in the community as a commissioned officer for four decades thereafter.

During his more than 30 years as a full-time Hilliard officer, Parkey instilled that same professionalism while he served as a field-training officer, established the division’s bicycle unit and pushed for the installation of cable barriers on Interstate 270.

Bob Parkey

Parkey, 63, retired Aug. 14 as a part-time school-safety officer for Hilliard City Schools, but though he had not worked for the police division since 2013, he had maintained his commission as an officer, thus concluding a 40-year career in law enforcement.

In reflecting on a four-decade career, Parkey said, he was pleased to be a part of the division’s transition into the 21st century.

Parkey said his approach on the street was community policing before it was known as community policing.

“We serve the public, not just police them. I saw policing as problem-solving and not just responding to a dispute and telling everyone to shut up or they’re going to jail,” Parkey said.

His philosophies were outlined in the Hilliard police field-training manual that he helped write as the division transitioned from an eight-member unit when he joined at the age of 23 into its modern force of about 60 sworn officers and supervisors.

Raised on Columbus’ Hilltop neighborhood, Parkey did not foresee a career in law enforcement when he began a job in construction after graduating from West High School.

However, after a year in construction, he took a job as security officer at various Lazarus stores, at which he regularly encountered police officers. 

“They all gave an air of authority and professionalism and it was impressive,” he said. “It had a positive impact on me, too.”

Parkey took a civil-service examination for police officers, and Hilliard was the first to call.

He graduated in the 45th class of the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy, and he was sworn in by Chief Edgel Maynard to become the department’s eighth police officer.

His career started in high gear as he responded to an armed robbery at Stan’s Pizza, where Landmark Lofts sits today, on his first shift, he said.

During his tenure, Parkey has investigated grisly automobile crashes, greeted smiling kindergarten students at the city’s elementary schools and everything in between.

As a field-training officer, Parkey ensured academy graduates were ready to be Hilliard police officers.

“You’re not born with a fire in your belly, and you don’t get it when you’re sworn in, but if you don’t have it by the end of field training, you’re going to have a mediocre career,” he said.

Among those whom Parkey trained is Sgt. John Higgins, who called Parkey “professional, grounded and an ‘officer’s officer.’ ”

“Many of the things I learned from him I have passed on to other officers in my own field training,” Higgins said. “(He) emphasized community service, problem-solving and logical conclusions (and) has a knack for building relationships with others, talking his way into quelling any situation. I’m proud to have served alongside him.” 

Parkey served as the division’s traffic-crash investigator, an effort that resulted in one of his legacy projects: the installation of cable barriers by the Ohio Department of Transportation in 2004 on the 2.5-mile section of I-270 in the Hilliard jurisdiction. 

Parkey lobbied ODOT by providing traffic-crash data from fatal cross-over accidents, including a triple-fatal crash that occurred shortly before the installation of the cable barriers that since have been replaced by a concrete median. 

“It was cutting edge at the time, (and) we were among the first freeways in Ohio to have it,” Parkey said. 

Another legacy is Safety Town.

Almost every fall, kindergarten students learn about using crosswalks and how to call 911 during a weeklong class taught by Hilliard police officers and Norwich Township firefighters. 

Parkey worked with then Norwich Township Fire Department Capt. Bill Midgley to establish the program in 1990 through the Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department. 

Parkey also was the impetus for the creation of the division’s pedal power.

“The (Heritage Rail Trail) was the reason we needed the bicycle patrol,” he said. 

Bicycles were found necessary to access the multipurpose path that stretches from Old Hilliard west toward Plain City, but the unit was used for many more purposes, Parkey said. 

A bike officer can “roll right up on” people even as they’re passing around a narcotic, as well observe people breaking into vehicles parked on side streets that are unaware they are being watched, he said. 

In mid-2013, Parkey retired as a lieutenant with Hilliard but did not stay idle long, accepting a new part-time position of school-safety officer with the district.

Parkey has spent the past seven years as a familiar face rotating among Hilliard’s elementary schools.

“I think it was an overwhelming success” to have a uniform presence in elementary schools at all times and not just emergencies, he said.

Former police Chief Doug Francis described Parkey as having a “servant’s heart.”

“He lives and breathes HPD, (and) every decision he made was always based on what he felt was best for the agency,” Francis said. 

Parkey and his wife, Cindy, have a daughter, Mary Beth Cook, and a son, Bob Parkey, who is a Columbus Division of Police officer. 

They have five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild is expected.