By Steve Hubrecht

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At long last the Columbia Valley RCMP has a new official detachment commander. 

The position has been vacant since former Columbia Valley RCMP Sgt. Darren Kakuno left to start a new role in Cranbrook at the start of the new year. 

Corporal Jeff Witzke has ably stepped in to fill the gap on an interim basis, doing everything Sgt. Kakuno did, including (as avid Pioneer readers are no doubt aware) penning the ever-popular RCMP report that appears on page 4 of the Pioneer each week. A few weeks ago Witzke finally got at least a bit of respite (and a new byline appeared on the RCMP report) when new Sgt. Ed DeJong arrived in the Columbia Valley.

DeJong brings nearly two decades of policing experience to the role, and much like his predecessors he loves the outdoor lifestyle the Columbia Valley offers.

“It’s been great so far. It’s a beautiful place,”  DeJong told the Pioneer, adding he’s an avid golfer, skier and hiker, and is delighted to be able to do all those pursuits in his new home.

DeJong’s most recent posting was in Tsay Keh Dene, a remote and relatively isolated First Nations community in north central B.C., near Williston Lake. He arrives here with his wife and two small dogs (the couple’s kids are now grown adults, living elsewhere in B.C), and DeJong said the change in climate from northern B.C. to the valley is welcome.

“It’s very temperate and there is a lot of sun. That was a big draw, especially for my wife; the extra sunshine,” said DeJong, adding “the amenities here are great too.” He explained the ample selection of grocery stores, shops and restaurants in Invermere just doesn’t exist back in Tsay Keh Dene.

For DeJong policing is a second career; his first was in the hotel and resort industry. At age 35 he decided to switch and joined the Calgary Police service in 2005. In 2007 he transferred to the RCMP.

DeJong was born in northern B.C, but his dad moved a lot for work, and as a result DeJong grew up all over B.C. and Alberta. Decades later, DeJong found his RCMP career took him on a similar path all over those same two provinces, with multi-year stops in (chronologically) Terrace, Gabriola Island, the Drayton Valley, and Terrace again, before Tsay Keh Dene. 

Most of that time was spent as a general duty officer doing front-line policing, before he became a corporal during his second stint in Terrace, and then a sergeant in Tsay Keh Dene.

“The thing that always drew me to policing was the variety,” said DeJong. “Every day is different. You’re out interacting with the community. And you have a chance to make a real difference.”

DeJong concedes that as a commander some of those benefits are somewhat removed now that he’s “stuck behind the desk a little bit more” but added he finds plenty of appeal in leadership roles.

“I do enjoy the responsibility that comes with that. I enjoy mentoring younger detachment members, helping them learn the job,” he explained, wryly adding that supervisor positions also means less time on the night shift.

Becoming Columbia Valley RCMP sergeant marks the first time DeJong has lived in either the East or West Kootenay (the closest he came was living in Vernon, in the Okanagan, as a kid).