Kenny Swithenbank: Promoted to Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Talks About What He’s Done and What He Hopes to Do
A Southern Humboldt man has been promoted to lieutenant at the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Kenny Swithenbank was born in Garberville as the waters receded from the 1964 flood. After attending school here, he became a deputy for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. He later promoted to sergeant and became a fixture in the Garberville area.
By 2015, he transferred from Southern Humboldt and began commuting to work in Eureka. This November, Swithenbank promoted to lieutenant and will be able to again be somewhat involved in the Southern Humboldt area.
“I will be able to go to meetings there more,” Swithenbank explained. “And hope to spend more time in Garberville.”
Swithenbank said that he won’t be in his patrol car out working in the community as much as he would like. “I have now transferred into more of an administrative position,” he said a little regretfully. “I’m in charge of our internal investigation, citizen complaints, etc. I’ll be doing more keeping track of our records.”
However, he explained, “I will still be out and about. I’m going to be in charge of stuff like SARB [School Attendance Review Board]…I will do my best to get down [to SoHum] as much as I can….Southern Humboldt will always be home.”
Swithenbank has been involved in many big cases including the attempted murder of Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Bang Cao. Swithenbank and Cao attempted to serve papers on a William Nelson who lived in Shelter Cove when the man opened fire on the deputy hitting him in the chest. Cao’s armored vest kept him from dying. But Cao credited Swithenbank with keeping him alive.
I consider myself extremely lucky that I was at the side of Sergeant Swithenbank, and his 25 years of experience, that day. He knew exactly what to do, and because of that, we both made it home to our families. My Point Blank ballistic vest was credited for saving my life, but I also credit Sergeant Swithenbank.
However, when asked which of the many cases he’s proudest of, Swithenbank spoke of helping get a child out of a bad situation and placed with a “good, local family.” He explained, “It’s not a big deal but it is one of the things I feel best about….The child was in a bad, bad way. I finally located the child…I did a lot of leg work.” The child, he said, is now “doing great.” The family, he explained, “still see me and they remember what happened and they are very grateful.”
Swithenbank said that he has plenty of stories about “crazy car chases” but, he said, “I always wanted to be a cop to see the right thing done and I feel like [getting the child to a good home] was it.”
He acknowledges that the job can be hard emotionally. “There’s the tragedies and family deaths, the children’s deaths, the broken families, being part of that sadness for other people’s families.” He explained that he has learned to compartmentalize but, he said, “Seems like the older I get, the softer I get and the more tolerant I get.’
Arresting the same person repeatedly “for decades” used to make him angry, he admitted. “But now, I don’t let it stress me out,” he said.
Swithenbank said he misses some of the parts of being a sergeant in Southern Humboldt. “I mostly miss the people I know,” he explained. “[I miss] going from store to store and visiting fellow citizens. [I miss] the connections I made down there. It’s amazing the contacts I made…The contacts have turned into friends.”
But, with his new position, he hopes to make changes that will help his fellow officers and the folks in Humboldt. “I’m hoping to make the deputies’ jobs much easier,” he explained. He’s hoping to improve communication, he said. He also said that Measure Z will help. “After the first of the year, we are going to hire some more [personnel]. Measure Z is helping and it is going to help some more.”
“We’re making schedule changes,” he said and he hopes this improves the number of hours deputies are in Southern Humboldt. “This upcoming year,” Swithenbank explained,”we should see a pretty good difference on the street–all due to Measure Z.”