OUR ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW WITH HILLS SUPERINTENDENT
In his 26 years with the NSW Police, the Hills’ top cop Darrin Batchelor has seen and experienced some “mind-blowing stuff”.
He has worked on some of the country’s biggest investigations and operations. Since June last year, he has been stationed at Castle Hill Police Station as Commander of the Hills Police Area Command.
Dooral Roundup Editor and journalist Annette Madjarian recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with Superintendent Batchelor to discuss all things policing.
This is Part 1 of Annette’s story. Part 2 will be published in November. 53-year-old Superintendent Darrin Batchelor “loves the cops”. With more than two and a half decades of service under his belt, he has seen it all.
As a police negotiator of 13 years, he talked many people out of life-threatening and dangerous situations.
He was part of the special police protection for Pope Benedict XVI when he visited Australia, and specifically the Hills District, for World Youth Day in 2008. It was reported the week-long Catholic youth event attracted some 500,000 people from 200 countries.
1 million people came for the weekend. Pointing to a World Youth Day lanyard hanging in the corner of his office, Superintendent Batchelor described his time protecting the Pope as awesome and surreal.
“We had a full swat team with us, negotiators. It makes you go wow, how good is this?” he recalls.
However, not all of Superintendent Batchelor’s policing memories are happy ones. He was in charge of the investigation into the horrific domestic violence murder of Rachelle Yeo in 2012 on Sydney’s northern beaches.
A jury took just two hours to find her killer guilty of murder. He was sentenced to 29 years in jail.
The murder case left a real imprint on Superintendent Batchelor, professionally and personally. While he described it as “the most satisfying investigation” of his career, it undoubtedly left a significant mark.
“I think one of the major things that I took out of that was what we, and when I say we, the police, Rachelle’s family, her friends in the community… could have done. What more we could have done to try and prevent that murder,” he explains.
“You know, a couple of weeks before her murder, she came into the police station to get some fingerprints done for a visa and she mentioned to a police officer that she had been stalked and intimidated by a former partner. So, on reflection, what we all could have done,” he reflects.
“Domestic violence is a whole community problem. It’s not just support services, it’s friends and family, it’s employees. It’s all of us having to work together to prevent it. And that was one of the big things that I took away from her murder.”
Superintendent Batchelor said another aspect of the Rachelle Yeo case was the relationships that came out of it, specifically with Rachelle’s parents, with whom he stays in touch with until the current day.
Superintendent Batchelor’s work with domestic violence has gone from strength to strength as he continues to push for stronger awareness and action
“Domestic violence is a whole community problem.
It’s all of us having to work together to prevent it.”
(he and his command are currently taking part in the ‘Run Against Violence’ fundraiser).
Domestic violence was an area of particular focus when Superintendent Batchelor joined The Hills PAC last year.
He said that in the past 18 months, the command was given 18 new positions; eight of which have gone into the Crime Prevention Unit, and two additional positions towards the Domestic Violence Unit.
When asked what the top crime issues were in his command, Superintendent Batchelor said there was an increase in sexual assault reports towards the end of last year. Incredibly, he said this came on the back of The Hills LAC charging Hillsong founder Brian Houston of allegedly concealing child sexual abuse by his late father in the 1970s.
“We were getting reports of sexual assaults from the 1970s. I think it gave the public confidence in the detectives here, that we’re not swayed by public profile.”
He said the way police were now dealing with sexual assaults – in a more empathetic and understanding way towards victims – was also encouraging people to come forward.
Another area which is still of concern to the Hills LAC is crimes associated with the Sydney Metro Trains, specifically malicious damage, and robberies to individuals.
But such crimes had decreased, due partly to “police relationships with Metro officials improving” and a new bicycle unit doing the rounds on the Metro itself, which has increased police visibility along the north west line to Rouse Hill.
There had been talk last year of a possible new police station at Rouse Hill Town Centre but budget constraints did not allow for this.
Instead, he said a “police room” had been set up for police to work out of, which should decrease response times to the northern part of the Hills Command.
Since his appointment, Superintendent Batchelor has also been in charge of the area’s flooding emergency efforts, most notably the July floods, which were described as the worst in 30 years.
“I saw a lot of anger and hurt. A lot of anger towards councils and politicians,” he explains. “In respect of recovery efforts, the community are extremely appreciative of all the agencies that took part.”
Superintendent Batchelor said it was his first time dealing with floods at such a horrific level. “It was unbelievable. The destruction, it took my breath away.”
In the November edition of the Galston, Glenorie & Hills Rural Community News, Editor Annette Madjarian will continue her report on Superintendent Darrin Batchelor, covering aspects of his personal life (his wife and daughter are also police officers; his youngest daughter’s fight with leukemia); and how his LAC has led the State in several important policing initiatives and trials.