City of Whittlesea’s emergency management officer Peter Duncombe with Senior Sergeant Glenn Parker who accepted his certificate of appreciation from council after five years as station commander.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

OUTGOING police station commander Senior Sergeant Glenn Parker will remember his time in Whittlesea for its strong community connection.

Sen Sgt Parker was celebrated and farewelled by his staff, City of Whittlesea council and the community at a lunch last week as he departed after more than five years in the role.

Sen Sgt Parker, who has worked in regional and peri-urban areas throughout his police career, said he would miss the tight Whittlesea community when he moved to his new position at Cobram.

“Country policing is a fairly intricate art, I would call it,” he said.

“The community connections that are developed in a country environment, they build a sense of trust with the community and the police. That’s really important having that relationship and that sense of trust, so we work harmoniously to achieve the right outcomes for the community.”

Sen Sgt Parker came to Whittlesea from Craigieburn police in 2015, and as well as running the station he coordinated the municipality’s emergency management – a field he is deeply passionate about, particularly in rural areas.

He also worked on improving internal processes and communications, which he said led to positive impacts on the force’s public-facing work.

In 2017, Sen Sgt Parker was instrumental in keeping the station open after doubt was cast on its future when the new Mernda station opened.

“When Mernda came online … certainly I advocated for [Whittlesea] to remain the same to service the community, and the community got behind that,” he said.

“The big public meeting at the town hall had more people at it than they saw at the meetings around Black Saturday when that was happening, so it was a community-driven thing.”

Whittlesea Police Station has also been the subject of calls for upgrades for years, with state Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell regularly criticising the state of the building and calling for more funding.

Built in 1960, Ms Lovell said it did not meet the needs of the community as it was too small, had no disabled access or toilets, and no private spaces for confidential conversations with police.

“The current state of the Whittlesea Police Station is a disgrace and the fact that police members are forced to work in such conditions is unacceptable,” she said.

When Sen Sgt Parker came to Whittlesea he said one of the biggest issues police faced was road trauma, but today he said the challenges had shifted.

“Moving forward, clearly family violence is a focus,” he said.

The City of Whittlesea’s COVID-19 Community Impact Report noted a significant increase in family violence, while lockdowns presented greater difficulty for people accessing support services.

Sen Sgt Parker said residents were ‘really suffering’ from a range of ongoing mental health issues, particularly as a result of the pandemic and on top of the high rates of mental illness already in the region, as identified in the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system.

He said he trusted Whittlesea police would help address the issues.

“My successor will build on what already exists,” he said.

“They’ll put their own flavour on it and build those healthy relationships, and I trust that they’re going to have what I had, and that’s that mutual respect and that amazing connection.

“It’s something that I’m going to take with me.”

Sen Sgt Parker said leaving the station was ‘bittersweet’, and his team had become ‘an extension of his family’.

He said he had formed lifelong friendships in the community.

“All those people [at the farewell ceremony] showed their appreciation for me, which I was completely humbled by and overwhelmed I have to say,” he said.

“I’ve absolutely loved working in Whittlesea. It’s a wonderful community, they’re really focussed on what’s best for the local community.”