Southern Humboldt officer retires from sheriff’s office, honored with Medal of Valor

Sheriff William Honsal hands retiring Lt. Ken Swithenbank a Medal of Valor on Tuesday morning during the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Sheriff William Honsal hands retiring Lt. Ken Swithenbank a Medal of Valor on Tuesday morning during the Board of Supervisors meeting. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office — Contributed
Members of the sheriff’s office and retiring Lt. Ken Swithenbank’s friends stand outside the courthouse on Tuesday.
Members of the sheriff’s office and retiring Lt. Ken Swithenbank’s friends stand outside the courthouse on Tuesday. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office — Contributed

The following is a 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. 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.”

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. 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. 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.

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