Police pioneer steps away

LIHUE — The longest-serving active duty officer at Kauai Police Department is hanging up the handcuffs.

Det. James Kurasaki, with 33 years of service on the force, will be stepping away from his post with KPD at the end of this month.

There have been plenty of cases, tons of gumshoeing, and who knows how many pulled-over cars and arrests.

But fellow officers remember a lot more than his police work.

“He makes great chili,” Chief of Police Darryl Perry joked, as the chief presented Kurasaki with the employee of the month award during Friday’s Police Commission meeting. Around 20 fellow officers and civilian staff were on hand to honor the most senior member before he retires Dec. 30.

Besides a spicy bean and meat mix, Perry added that Kurasaki did some pretty outstanding work with the department, too.

“He has the ability to conduct complete and detailed investigations and bring justice and closure to adult and juvenile victims, which is a true reflection of his commitment to the profession,” the chief said.

Lt. Bryson Ponce nominated Kurasaki, his supervisor, for the award. As a detective, he said Kurasaki has worked all kinds criminal cases — from burglaries to arson, thefts, forgeries, break-ins and murders.

“But Sgt. Kurasaki is best known as the pioneer of the sex assault investigations,” Ponce said.

“This is perhaps one of the most admirable and remarkable accomplishments in the history of Kauai Police Department.”

Kurasaki conducted detailed forensic interviews with children and adult victims, in addition to interviewing and obtaining confessions or admissions from perpetrators. He collected evidence and could put complex cases together to aid the prosecution.

“He has been outstanding throughout his career and made the island a safer place,” Ponce said.

Ponce noted that he was 6 when Kurasaki started with KPD on July 7, 1981. Over 33 years, Kurasaki served as a patrol officer, evidence custodian, patrol sergeant and detective.

“As a patrol sergeant, he was respected for his great attitude, guidance and mentorship,” Ponce said.

When Ponce joined the department, he said Kurasaki took him under his wing and taught him the ropes, first as a patrol officer and then as an investigator.

Kauai Police Commission Chair Charles Iona said that Kurasaki can now look back and be proud of his accomplishments and know that the county appreciates the sacrifice of holidays and time away from his family to conduct police work at all hours of the day.

“The community owes a huge debt to you for your service to all of us,” Iona said. “Going forward, your life will be a little different and you can always know we are grateful to you, and the commission is always there for you.”

Commissioner Mary Hertog, who served as director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office for the Department of Defense until retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a major general in 2012, said she appreciates how difficult a job it is to investigate sexual assaults day after day.

“You have made such a positive impact on the community,” she said. “You can retire knowing that you did that and then groomed your replacement as your supervisor.”

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