Passing a one-year milestone as Chief of Police for the Village of Oak Harbor, Eric S. Parker has had much to reflect on in such unusual times, including staffing, COVID-19, road construction and, looking into the future, a police levy
A lifelong area resident and graduate of Oak Harbor High School, Parker, 44, took over from long-time chief Steven R. Weirich, in August 2019. Parker had served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, with many overseas assignments including the Persian Gulf and a total of 13 countries.
He was with the Oak Harbor department for 20 years, rising through the ranks to be a sergeant, before following in Weirich’s steps.
“I am most proud of continuing on the traditions of the great department I grew up with and learned from,” said Parker. “The leadership qualities I learned from the U.S. Marine Corps prepared me for the adversity I faced.”
Parker noted his biggest challenge has been replacing the experience of those who have moved on.
“The past year has seen long-time officers retire and many new faces join our department,” said Parker, “but we will continue to provide a professional service to our community, as expected.”
Though the stability of officers with 20 plus years on the job is, in a sense, irreplaceable, the Oak Harbor Police Department recently held an Officer Swear-In for new part-time officers Gary Pollock and Brett Bartson.
Officer Pollock is a Lindsey resident who comes to the department with three years of road patrol experience. Officer Bartson is a Fremont resident who graduated from the EHOVE Career Center Police Academy. He is also been in the Army Reserves since 2016. The addition of the new officers brings the department back up to full staff with two full-time School Resource Officers, five full-time Road Patrol Officers, and three part-time Road Officers.
In addition to re-staffing, Chief Parker’s department has been greatly impacted by the challenges of COVID-19. The staff is handling more phone calls for service and, if police presence is needed, trying to stay outside of residences, when possible, to protect both the officers and the residents.
“Our officers are facing an invisible threat that they have to take into consideration,” said the chief. “Interactions with the public are a little less personal than in the past … we are looking forward to a day where we can get back to business as usual, serving our great citizens.”
The Church Street Improvement Project construction has also presented a few obstacles for both residents and the police department. Seeing a higher volume of traffic in new places, due to detours, Parker noted people are in new areas of the village and may be unfamiliar with traffic patterns.
He encouraged everyone to remain aware of temporary road signs and indicated his staff is working hard to keep the streets and sidewalks safe for citizens.
“The Village of Oak Harbor is my hometown, and where I raised my family,” said Parker. “It is important to me to provide great community policing so the next generation can feel as safe as we have with our family living here.”
On the November ballot is an Oak Harbor police levy, a much-needed income resource to provide the department with day-to-day operations. The levy has been used in the past to replace uniforms, repair vehicles, and further police training. According to Mayor Quinton Babcock, the levy annually raises approximately $120,000 for the department. When it was originally voted in, an owner of a $100,000 home paid approximately $100 per year. A renewal, the November levy will produce no additional cost to residents if it is maintained, and Babcock indicated the expense to the homeowner is actually expected to decrease, going forward.
Located at 146 N. Church St., the Oak Harbor Police Department may be reached at 419-898-2055 (non-emergency contact number). The building is closed to the public, due to COVID-19, but staff will come outside help anyone in need.