Southern Humboldt’s Lt. Kenny Swithenbank Retires With Medal of Valor

Deputy Bang Cao

Lt. Swithenbank with Deputy Bang Cao who credits Swithenbank with saving his life. [All photos from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department]

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

A teary-eyed audience filled the Board of Supervisors Chamber this morning as a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant, known for bringing a community together, said goodbye.

Lieutenant Kenneth Swithenbank officially retired today after almost 28 years of service with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

Kenny Swithenbank talking to the Board of Supervisors and the audience gathered there.

Kenny Swithenbank talking to the Board of Supervisors and the audience gathered there.

Swithenbank, a Southern Humboldt native, began his career as a deputy in August of 1988.

“To me it was that strong sense of wanting to see the right thing done,” Swithenbank said of his choice to become a deputy, “standing up for the right thing and taking a stance against what’s wrong.”

It wasn’t long after being hired that Swithenbank was transferred to work out of the Garberville substation as a resident deputy. Serving the community he grew up in, Swithenbank stayed at the Garberville substation for 25 years, developing deep relationships and trust with the residents of Southern Humboldt.

“I feel very positive about what I accomplished in Southern Humboldt,” Swithenbank said. “I knew I could count on them, as they knew they could count on me. It was a great relationship with my hometown people and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Kenny Swithenbank and BIlly Hansel

Sheriff Billy Honsal hands Lt. Swithenbank his Medal of Valor.

Swithenbank rose through the ranks, becoming a Sergeant in 2003. During his time as Sergeant, Swithenbank put his life on the line to serve his community and fellow deputies.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting today, Swithenbank was honored with a Medal of Valor for his brave and heroic actions in May of 2014. Working as a Sergeant, Swithenbank and Deputy Bang Cao responded to a residence in Shelter Cove to serve a court order civil eviction. The two were met by a male resident with a firearm.

“While trying to serve that eviction, he came out and fired at us,” Swithenbank said.

A bullet struck Deputy Cao in the chest. The two fired back while retreating to safety. The suspect was later apprehended uninjured and convicted on all charges. Deputy Cao survived the incident. The deputy’s ballistic vest is credited with saving his life.

Medal of Valor

Medal of Valor

Swithenbank and Cao’s bravery and use of sound survival tactics prevented the situation from ending much worse.

Swithenbank left the Garberville Substation in 2016, becoming the Administrative Lieutenant for the Sheriff’s Office.

Kenny Swithenbank

Swithenbank surrounded by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s employees, the Southern Humboldt crew, and his family.

After serving two years in that role, today Swithenbank has his eye on his last promotion: retirement. In his retirement, Swithenbank says he plans to return to his hobbies of surfing, construction and automotive mechanics.

Sheriff William Honsal and the entire staff of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office are thankful for Lieutenant Swithenbank’s many years of service to the community and wish him success in his retirement.

Here at RHBB, we’ll miss you easy going ways, deep knowledge of the Southern Humboldt community, and warm heart, Kenny. Thanks for all the help.

Lt. Ken Swithenbank of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office

Swithenbank on his last day as sergeant. [Photo by Laura Lasseter]

Listen to his last call. Lt. Kenny Swithenbank will not be answering his radio again…



  • Salute!

  • Awesome !!!! Good luck Kenny .

  • Congrats kenny, you were great…

  • Great job Kenny now you can get your self a roadrunner .

  • As a once long time So Hum resident thank you Kenny for your many years of service. All the best on your retirement

  • Thank you for all of your wonderful years of being the LEO we could all count on! I wish there were more out there like our own Kenny Swithenbank!

  • You done good, Kenny! You’ve had an exemplary career and this taxpayer thanks you.

  • What your not going to make any time for Baseball? If I remember right that there is an undefeated garberville little league team from 1974!!!!, And you played first base the entire season.

  • From memory the photo was taken in left field at the Eel River Concentration Camp. Top left to right Vi Pancoast and Lee Sanders coaches, top center Sonny Hartzel, Barley, Sam French, Rob Darnell, Toby Ruiz, please let us know,?, can not remember,? And Andy Anderson. Bottom center Bert Tomas, Todd Barton,?:) Kenny swithenbank, John Johnson, please let us know and Drew Bertane with Boyce Sanders on bats.

  • We have many memories to look back on, Kenny…and most of it was awesome…we did our job, and we made it thru the bad times…and we did a good job doing it….I still miss the Substation, and all of the people I worked with, and some very nice people that I met…I wish you nothing but the best, and you can always have me to have your back..cause you always had mine…xxxooo Starla Fay

  • Congratulation Kenny, who says you can’t fall off the bluff’s, land on your feet and find your calling. Thank you for your service.

  • Thank you Kenny. The next one will have a hard time filling your job and beats you walked/did here locally. You being from here, makes it harder,ppl you’ve known and had to take into custody you have known all/most of your life. But you were always fair. We will miss you! Enjoy life more now than you always have. Stop by and say hello to us once in awhile.

  • Happy retirement Kenny! I hope we get to see a lot more of you now.

  • Thankyou Kenny for your service to our community. Enjoy your retirement and most of all, have fun!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *