For the past eight years in the state’s southern region, crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Darren Cloake has exemplified the principle of doing something based on inner motivation rather than validation from the outwardly visible.
In his office, every part of his whiteboard is filled with scrawls of academic theories about preventing and managing crime.
As well, books about policing – from civic leadership to emotional management for officers – are scattered in the office’s rear section.
One of his drawers is filled with newspaper clippings and photographs of major police operations from years gone by.
But he will now take that passion for community service to the northern region after finishing his Wagga role on Friday.
“I hope that I’ve left the place better than I found it,” he said.
“It’s been one hell of a journey and now it’s onto the next chapter – there’s still plenty of life left in me.”
I hope that I’ve left the place better than I found it.Detective Inspector Darren Cloake, Riverian Police District
Detective Inspector Cloake, 49, will now move into the role of Officer in Charge in Casino, near Lismore.
“I see the struggles people may go through and I feel for any victims of crime, so I want to restore that justice and that sense of community,” he said.
Of the eight years in the region, he spent three in Deniliquin before coming to Wagga in 2014.
Achievements in the Riverina
Of the Riverina operations he looks back with a great sense of achievement, he cited Strike Force Calyx in 2015 that resulted in more than 55 arrests for drug supply.
The operation was awarded NSW Police’s Annual Detectives Board Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation.
“Shortly after that, there was a drug forum, which was quite good because I felt we had done something positive in the community,” Detective Inspector Cloake said.
Also on the list of achievements are strike forces Cornet and Kalkadoon.
Cornet investigated a former Junee High School teacher who was arrested and charged in 2016 before being convicted of historic child sex offences earlier this year.
Kalkadoon involved Wagga police helping to arrest Gino and Mark Stocco in 2015, regarded as one of Australia’s biggest manhunts.
Difficult cases with lasting impact
Asked about which case affected him most, Detective Inspector Cloake said it was the Lockhart tragedy in 2014 involving the deaths of a family of five.
“Two other detectives and I were tasked with finding the children as they were reported missing from school,” he said.
“It still impacts me now speaking about it.
“I had thought my time beforehand in the police would’ve prepared me for tragedies, but that one continues to have a personal impact.”
He said if there were one case he wished to have resolved before moving on, it was “finding the body of Allecha Boyd”.
“I would have felt a great sense of accomplishment if that was the case – in restoring her remains to her family and giving her a proper farewell,” he said.
“To make it part of the healing process for all affected.”
He will be ‘sorely missed’: community colleagues
Someone who has worked closely with Detective Inspector Cloake is Wayne Deaner, president of Wagga Neighbourhood Watch.
Mr Deaner described Detective Inspector Cloake’s as “someone who will be sorely missed”.
“Darren’s been instrumental in building Neighbourhood Watch to where it is today,” he said.
“We’ve formed a great partnership with him and of course NSW Police.”
As for personal qualities, Mr Deaner said he was a person with “great respect and a jovial attitude”.
“Always keen for a joke and he’s one of those types you feel at ease with,” he said.
Similarly, Wagga PCYC regional manager Brett Sommerville said Detective Inspector Cloake always had “an open-door policy for us”.
“He’s been a big advocate for our programs and the motto of prevention rather than cure rings true with him,” Mr Sommerville said.
“He’ll get a bit more sunshine up there and I’m sure he'll do them proud.”
Most passionate about helping young people
While he may have received citations and awards, Detective Inspector Cloake’s passion for community service is most palpable when he works on initiatives for young people.
“There’s a real cultural problem with some of the youths in Wagga that needs to be addressed, but it comes back to education,” he said.
“It’s about giving them purposes so there are reasons to go to bed at night and to get up in the morning.”
He cited an incident with a young offender from Ashmont earlier this year, who was charged with 29 offences, including stealing cars, driving at police, driving at other people and doing three ram raids.
“But he spent less than two weeks in custody before he was released,” Detective Inspector Cloake said.
“So what sense of purpose does that serve?
“We’re setting him up to fail and that’s the frustration we’re all feeling.”
One of Detective Inspector Cloake’s major projects is a cadetship program that will enable Riverina’s young people to gain exposure to careers in emergency services.
“Those kids will come away with life lessons and we’re hoping to instil that sense of leadership and teamwork,” he said.
“They can walk away with a certificate two in public safety and show it to prospective employers.”
He has also worked with the AFL to implement drug-education programs around regional NSW.
Troubled areas and drug concerns
While he said Wagga was good for the majority of residents, there remains troubled areas that will take “a whole-of-community approach” to resolve.
“You’ve got youth unemployment and single parents, as well as educational levels being down,” he said.
These are intergenerational issues that have been occurring in Wagga for some 40 years.Detective Inspector Darren Cloake
“These are inter-generational issues that have been occurring in Wagga for some 40 years.”
Drugs in Wagga are also cited as a major issue he would like to see improved when he leaves.
“We’ve extended ourselves in resources, time and effort in addressing those people who have been charged with flooding Wagga with cheap drugs and getting people addicted,” he said.
Superintendent praises dedication and commitment
Riverina Police District’s Superintendent Bob Noble praised Detective Inspector Cloake for his dedication and commitment.
“Darren brought the dogged, big-city detective determination we've all come to know him for and he harnessed that to a true affinity for the Riverina,” Superintendent Noble said.
“This has allowed him not only to pursue those villains that would seek to cause harm, but also to truly empathise with victims and the wider community.
“These two elements of his personality have combined in a harmonious balance that has seen the delivery of excellent results and the building of trusting, productive relationships across the board.”
Parting words to the region
Detective Inspector Cloake thanked Superintendent Noble and the other members of the police senior management team for their ongoing support.
“I also acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all of the police here at the district with a special mention to those in criminal investigations – the proactive team and crime management unit,” he said.
Moving forward, Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Spliet will take over as crime manager from December this year.
“The community should feel comfort and confidence in Andrew’s ability,” Detective Inspector Cloake said.
“I also thank the community of Wagga, especially those in Neighbourhood Watch.
“They have certainly provided my family and me with a wonderful life experience – one that will be treasured forever.”
Detective Inspector Cloake will leave Wagga in December with his wife, Leanne, and 13-year-old son, Matt.
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