Leading the Charge

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″ offset=”vc_col-lg-1/5 vc_col-md-1/5 vc_col-xs-1/5″][us_image image=”81825″ size=”thumbnail” align=”left” style=”circle” has_ratio=”1″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/12″ offset=”vc_col-lg-4/5 vc_col-md-4/5 vc_col-xs-4/5″][vc_column_text]By Annette Madjarian[/vc_column_text][us_post_date][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]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.

Galston, Glenorie & Hills Rural Community News Editor and journalist Annette Madjarian recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with Superintendent Batchelor to discuss all things policing.

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’s 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.”

Considering he’s been leading his command since only June last year, Hills Police Area Commander Superintendent Darrin Batchelor (pictured right) has had some major wins.

Walking around his station (located at the corner of Castle St and Pennant St, Castle Hill), and seeing Superintendent Batchelor interacting with his staff, one gets a sense that this senior top cop is not only genuinely respected but is the glue that holds it altogether.

Superintendent Batchelor is not brash, anything but. He is mildly spoken, has a calm demeanour and it’s really not that difficult to see that he draws respect from his fellow police officers and colleagues, of all ranks and backgrounds.

When asked about his command’s achievements, Superintendent Batchelor modestly but excitedly responds. “I think we’ve got a lot of good people here that are innovative. They are really good at identifying opportunities.”

He cites an example – during the height of the Covid lockdowns, when his police command could not interact with local schools in person (as it would normally do).

Hills Police Area Command Youth Officer Senior Constable Ethan West took matters into his own hands.

“We knew schools were doing online learning. Ethan got in contact with the local principals and said, ‘Can you give me half an hour during your day where I can jump on and talk about online safety?’

It was about the guys here identifying opportunities. We’ve got such a good team. It is a really, really good team. A lot of very smart police.”

The other area Hills Police are leading the charge is in the online space. The Hills Police Area Command Facebook page now boasts some 52,593 followers, one of the biggest across NSW.

Superintendent Batchelor said police had simply moved with the times, having had a “whole generation of kids coming through that have grown up with social media and phones in their hands”.

From June 2021 to June 2022, the Hills Police Facebook page had experienced an 1,843% increase in reach; 1,226% increase in engagement; and 785% fan increase.

“Our Facebook page has the highest take up and following of any police area command in New South Wales.”

He credits these phenomenal results to: “People in the community want to know what’s happening in their local area. And we’re finding if we can update them quite quickly, they appreciate it.”

“Our record for identifying an alleged offender is about four minutes from the time a post (online) goes up… Our Crimestoppers reports (people ringing up offering information) have increased exponentially and we put that down to Facebook, because we do have so many followers”.

He said social media platforms such as Facebook were now critical: “It’s invaluable for missing persons. The community have located missing persons on our behalf quite quickly, within a matter of hours, purely because of what they’ve seen on Facebook.”

Still on the power of social media, the aforementioned Senior Constable Ethan West has become quite the online superstar, with a recent Tik Tok video outlining ‘A Day in the Life of Ethan’ police youth officer reaching 100,000 likes.

“I talk about Ethan a lot because he is like our star and the kids love him.” Superintendent Batchelor said his approach has always been to engage the community with a variety of initiatives in a variety of different ways. And his staff follow suit.

The Hills Police Area Command’s crime manager has taken on the role of taking care of social media, a responsibility he takes very seriously (ironically, his Facebook posts are much loved for their injections of humour and puns).

“He loves it, absolutely thrives on it. And we’re now finding other commands ringing him and saying, ‘Can you send me the template for that post you did?’

“I love the area, it’s a great community. I walk over to Castle Towers and it takes me about half an hour because people want to stop and have a chat. We are so fortunate to work in a community that’s so supportive of us”

It’s such an important tool. It’s not only about education and prevention, it’s also about investigation. Our domestic violence officers put a video of themselves talking about domestic violence and the types of domestic violence and letting the community know how to report such crimes. And it works.”

Superintendent Batchelor is proud of his command, this is very evident. And it’s quite the achievement for someone who joined the police some 26 years ago from the NSW Ambulance Service.

“I was obviously going to different jobs as an ambulance officer and interacting with the police and watching what they were doing…”

“But then thinking about job progression and variety. I thought if I could join the police, I could do a huge variety of roles. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being an ambulance officer, it was fantastic. But as far as diversity of work, that’s what attracted me to the police.”

He said coming from the ambulance service also gave him a different understanding of each of the emergency services, which as Commander has proved invaluable.

As it happens, policing runs in Superintendent Batchelor’s household, with his wife Sarah a long-time police officer (they were in the same class at the police academy); and more recently his 19-year-old daughter joining ranks.

Rather than being solely influenced by her police officer parents, Superintendent Batchelor said his daughter was genuinely intrigued to join the police service.

“She says, ‘I want to be able to help people’ and I think it’s one of those jobs where you turn up to work and you don’t know what you’re going to be doing for the day and that appeals to her.”

He said it was only natural that he is protective of his daughter but more so mindful of “what we face as police officers”.

Superintendent Batchelor says that while he “fortunately” has not been seriously hurt on the job, there have been many instances where he’s been in struggles and has been assaulted, punched, kicked and spat on – “that happens a lot”.

Outside of the police, Superintendent Batchelor has had his fair share of challenges.

Eight years ago, at age four, his youngest daughter Isla was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia.

While she has now got the all-clear, Superintendent Batchelor shares that as a parent, the fear and worry never leaves him. But his own family’s experience with cancer has led him to contribute to cancer fundraising at any opportunity. Hills Police were out in force at this year’s Hills Relay For Life, an annual Cancer Council fundraiser, with Superintendent Batchelor leading the charge.

Following his daughter’s cancer treatment, he and his wife wanted to repay the public cost of Isla’s cancer treatment and to date have raised more than $200,000 through a variety of fundraising initiatives.

As he reflects on his wide-varying role in the NSW Police, Superintendent Batchelor said he would love to stay at the Hills Command for as long as possible.

“I love the area, it’s a great community. I walk over to Castle Towers and it takes me about half an hour because people want to stop and have a chat. We are so fortunate to work in a community that’s so supportive of us.”