Dean Cavanaugh is graduating from the Public Safety Academy in Sitka this Friday. He’ll be the village public safety officer in the village of Kake. (Courtesy Photo | Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)

Dean Cavanaugh is graduating from the Public Safety Academy in Sitka this Friday. He’ll be the village public safety officer in the village of Kake. (Courtesy Photo | Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)

Kake to have a law enforcement presence again

Dean Cavanaugh is first public safety officer in village in two years

For the first time in about two years, Kake has a village public safety officer.

Dean Cavanaugh, originally from Kake, is graduating from the Public Safety Training Academy in Sitka on Friday. Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) has coordinated the VPSO program in Southeast since 2010, and according to a CCTHITA press release in April, Cavanaugh is the first VPSO in Kake in nearly two years.

“Recruitment and retention have been a great challenge not only for Tlingit & Haida, but for the VPSO program as a whole,” CCTHITA Public Safety Manager Jason Wilson said in the release. “The Kake VPSO position has been vacant for almost two years and we are happy to have it finally filled, especially by a tribal citizen.”

Cavanaugh is of the Eagle Moiety and Was’ineidi clan, according to the CCTHITA release in April. His Tlingit name is Shakéutgee, and his family comes from Kake and Hydaburg. He was raised in Kake and graduated from Kake High School in 2007. After living in Anchorage for nine years, he decided to move back to Kake with his fiancé Tauni Minelli and his two young sons, Noah and Lucas.

The state established the VPSO program in the 1970s to have first responders in rural Alaska communities that are too small to have a police department. VPSOs are trained in search and rescue, fire protection, emergency medical assistance, crime prevention and basic law enforcement.

Tragedies in small towns prove difficult to solve. In Kake last August, 19-year-old Jade Williams died in what Alaska State Troopers called suspicious circumstances. A year later, the case remains unsolved.

CCTHITA President Richard (Chalye Éesh) Peterson said in the April release that it’s vital for residents in these remote villages to have someone looking out for them.

“Our Southeast Alaska communities have experienced first-hand how much a community can suffer and be impacted when there is a lack of public safety services available,” Peterson said in the release. “I never want to see our Southeast communities without the essential services of public safety and am committed to working with the State of Alaska on pursuing possibilities of compacting Public Safety.”

Kake has been approved for a second VPSO position as well, according to the April release. The job opening is still listed on the CCTHITA website.

Cavanaugh is one of 37 graduates, according to a release from the Department of Public Safety on Thursday. The graduation ceremony takes place at 1 p.m. Friday and will be live streamed on the Alaska State Troopers Facebook page.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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