Long-serving sergeant will keep the valley in his heart, despite promotion

By Steve Hubrecht

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In rural communities across B.C., some things seem to never change while others alter constantly — like the position of a local RCMP detachment commander. In small B.C. towns this particular job is always in flux. The Columbia Valley, however, has been very lucky in this regard: the beautiful surroundings, friendly atmosphere and strong sense of community have kept Columbia Valley RCMP commanders in their positions far longer than in most other towns. There’s been just three RCMP commanders in the valley over the past dozen years.

Still, eventually there comes a time to move on and for current RCMP Sergeant Darren Kakuno, that time is soon. Kakuno has been leading the Columbia Valley RCMP for more than four and half years  — which he freely points out is a very decent stretch by the standards of small town police departments. In the near future, he and his family will be moving to Cranbrook, where Kakuno has been promoted into a new role. The new job will have Kakuno working in an advisory and support capacity for all RCMP detachments in the East Kootenay region.

In his long stint here Kakuno, his wife Heather and their two kids, ages 12 and 14, along with their black lab, Gunner, have grown to love the Columbia Valley, and Kakuno said it will not be easy to leave.

“The reason we wanted to come to the Columbia Valley is because it has absolutely everything my family and I were looking for. Endless outdoor activities, communities that are supportive of the police, progressive local governments, low crime rates and access to all of the amenities that we need. It’s been an amazing community to raise a family in,” Kakuno told the Pioneer.

The Kakuno family spent as much time as they could taking advantage of the valley’s great outdoors. Kakuno joked that his only complaint is that there are so many great activities to try here that there’s just not enough time to do them all.

“I’m fortunate that my family enjoys all the same activities as I do. We tried to split our time between mountain biking, hiking, golf, camping, fishing, dirt biking and skiing. It’s been absolutely amazing. We’re so fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend four years here, and I’m jealous of those that get to settle down in the valley,” he said. “I grew up in a community of 600 people and I’ve always wanted to raise my kids in small community, somewhere that you know your community will be watching out for your family when you can’t be there for them.”

Kakuno added he feels lucky his family is very understanding and never complains when it’s time to move, “although I know they’re going to miss their friends terribly.”

It’s some consolation to Kakuno that in moving to Cranbrook, he won’t be going all that far away.

“In my new position I’ll get to visit all of the detachments in the Kootenay, including the Columbia Valley, so I’m definitely not saying good bye to the area, I’ll just be moving down the highway,” he noted. 

In Cranbrook, Kakuno will become a senior advisory NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) for the East Kootenay. The RCMP’s Southeast B.C. District headquarters are in Kelowna, which makes it hard for the senior management team there to regularly visit all local detachments. Kakuno will be posted in Cranbrook and essentially function as the link between the East Kootenay’s local RCMP detachments and senior staff in Kelowna.

“I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to support our detachments in the region. It’s a great opportunity for me because I’ll get to take all of my priorities that I brought to my previous position and apply them on a larger scale,” Kakuno told the Pioneer. 

He explained that being sergeant of the Columbia Valley RCMP has been an extremely rewarding experience for him.

“I won’t lie, my hair is much grayer now than it was when I arrived, but it’s been rewarding nonetheless. It was an opportunity to get back to the basics of policing. To listen to what our communities’ concerns were and to try to make it the safest place to live and raise our families in,” said Kakuno. “I’m so proud of the members and staff at our detachment. They do an extremely difficult job with limited resources but no matter how difficult the job gets, they’re always there for us when we need them.” 

Kakuno’s best on-the-job memories are the times he’s been able get out from behind his desk and observe how local RCMP officers members and staff deal with some of the most difficult situations imaginable. 

“I’m always amazed at the patience and compassion within our detachment,” he said.

Kakuno has been with the RCMP for more than two decades, starting with a posting in Princeton 23 years ago. By coincidence his field trainer in Princeton was Chris Newel, who recently retired as the commander of the Kimberley RCMP detachment.

“It was neat being commanders at neighbouring detachments almost two decades (after starting),” said Kakuno. 

After Princeton, he worked in the RCMP’s Organized Crime Agency, its Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, and the Integrated Proceeds of the RCMP’s crime section. From there he transferred to RCMP headquarters in the lower mainland where he worked in the major crime unit before transferring to the major crime unit in Kelowna. 

In 2015, Kakuno decided to get back to frontline policing in a small community and so transferred to the general investigative section with the Creston RCMP. 

“Once my family and I arrived in the Kootenay (in Creston) we fell in love with the area, so when the opportunity to transfer to the Columbia Valley came up (in 2018), we jumped at it,” he said.

Kakuno extended a thank you to residents of the Columbia Valley, saying “I’d like to tell the community how much our detachment appreciates the support we’re shown. Thank you for the notes of appreciation, the flowers, the snacks and goodies and the waves as we’re driving past each other. Our detachment truly appreciates our community.”