Longtime Officers Say Goodbye to Newcastle After 20 Years
Posted on 09/14/2018

Longtime Newcastle Deputies Steve Kajihiro and Scott Yamamoto are moving on to their next assignment in the King County Sheriff’s Office after earning promotions to the rank of sergeant. The well-deserved honor means they’ll be reassigned to new posts across the county, bringing an end to their nearly 20-year tenure patrolling the streets of Newcastle.

“I'm losing a combined 36 years of experience in Newcastle when they leave,” said Newcastle Police Chief Jason Houck. “That's more than the rest of us still here combined. They were great officers and true assets to Newcastle. I have no doubt they will be successful in their future assignments.” 

The duo’s law enforcement careers began their parallel paths when they were classmates at a Hawaii police academy nearly 30 years ago. They started out with the Honolulu Police Department, but made the jump to the mainland after the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) recruited them. In 2000, they were assigned to the City of Newcastle, which contracts with the KCSO for police services.

A retired Honolulu Police Department sergeant encouraged Yamamoto to pursue a career in law enforcement. Kajihiro’s inspiration came from his older brother, who was also a police officer. 

“Throughout my whole life, I always wanted to be an officer for as long as I can remember,” Kajihiro said. “Plus, back then you used to have all these cop TV shows and I used to love that.”

Positive Interactions

During their time in Newcastle, the officers were known for the calm, even demeanor they displayed in all of their interactions with citizens. They both credit that to their upbringings in Hawaii.

“We try to talk to people the way we would want to be talked to,” Yamamoto said. “We've always been that way.”

“The way you act toward people matters, because you can change somebody’s life,” Kajihiro added. “You listen, try to understand where they’re coming from and treat people with respect.”

New KCSO Deputy Carlos Marquez experienced the full impact of a Kajihiro-Yamamoto police interaction when he was just a teenager living in Newcastle. He was always a good student studying at Liberty High School, but as he got older, he started exhibiting some typical teenage behavior that just became too much for his single mother Carolina to handle alone.

After an argument, Carolina called the police. Kajihiro and Yamamoto responded to the scene and met Carolina outside, where she asked them to talk to him and set him straight. The Newcastle officers did more than that. They listened, they calmly counseled him and they engaged in a positive interaction that ultimately changed the course of Marquez’s life and inspired the young man to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“That was it,” Marquez said. “That day, they just changed it all with the way they talked to me. It was huge.”

Remembering Newcastle

The city has changed immensely since the duo started patrolling the streets of Newcastle 18 years ago. Coal Creek Parkway was just a two-lane road at the time, and they still remember checking alarms at the Mutual Materials brick plant.

They’ve certainly had their fair share of memorable calls over the decades, but one of the more vivid ones — and possibly the most humorous one — involved Christmas lights, a deer and a wild chase that prompted the 911 caller to say it was one of the funniest things he had ever witnessed.

Yamamoto and another officer responded to a Newcastle home after receiving a report of a deer caught in some Christmas lights. After successfully freeing the animal from the tangled mess, the buck proceeded to chase the officers around the cars.

“It followed us out of the cul-de-sac as we drove away, too,” Yamamoto recalled.

“That was the funniest thing, for sure,” Kajihiro said with a laugh.

As they bid farewell to a city they’ve protected for almost 20 years, the duo said the they’ll miss interacting with citizens. They’ve cultivated friendships and watched kids grow up across the community.

“The best thing about Newcastle is the friendly citizens,” Yamamoto said. “When other deputies come by the city they are always surprised by how friendly the people are.”

They’ll also miss the regular visits they made to local schools throughout the year.

“It was always a good time talking to the kids and just hanging out,” Kajihiro said. “That presence makes a difference to the kids and shows them that police officers are not scary people.”

Yamamoto and Kajihiro have already worked their last days in the City of Newcastle, and two new officers are expected to join the force soon. The KCSO will honor the duo during a public promotion ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 27 in King County Courtroom E-942 (The courtroom is located on the ninth floor of the King County Courthouse, at 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104). 

“Those two will be a tough act to follow, but we do have some new officers coming in that will be ready to step up,” Chief Houck said.

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