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‘Shelter Cove is My New Assignment’

Not quite a year since retiring after 13 years as sheriff of Mendocino County, Tom Allman announced via Facebook on Wednesday that he’ll be rejoining the ranks of law enforcement just over the county line.

“I will be helping Humboldt County Sheriff Billy Honsal in a community which I loved as I was growing up,” Allman wrote. “Shelter Cove is my new assignment.”

Honsal & Allman

In recent years, residents of Southern Humboldt’s remote communities have had to deal with law enforcement response times of 90 minutes or more, in part because the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has been chronically short-staffed. 

Last year, after local residents began taking the law into their own hands amid a string of cannabis farm robberies in the Mattole Valley, Honsal said he hoped to eventually have a deputy posted either in the valley or in Shelter Cove. 

Allman, who grew up in Southern Humboldt, attending South Fork High School with Redheaded Blackbelt reporter Kym Kemp, wrote glowingly of the community:

“The views are fabulous, the fishing is great and the beaches are beautiful. The airport and golf course are nice and the deer assume that they own the golf course greens.”

Shortly after this post went up, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office posted the following press release:

After 35 years in law enforcement, Tom Allman, retired Sheriff-Coroner of Mendocino County, is returning to his roots, ready for his next big assignment: the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lost Coast Resident Deputy.

Allman begins his new role on Monday, November 30, ending nearly a decade-long vacancy of the position serving the Shelter Cove, Whitethorn and Mattole Valley communities. Allman, who split his childhood between North Carolina and Garberville, graduating from South Fork High School, is no stranger to the Lost Coast. Allman says, growing up his family made monthly visits to Shelter Cove and has made many friends there along the way.

“Since Tom Allman retired, I have been speaking to him about coming to work in Humboldt County.,” Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said. “Shelter Cove, the Lost Coast and the Mattole Valley need to have a resident deputy that can focus on community collaboration and problem solving. Tom’s roots run deep in Humboldt and he is going to make a great addition to my team.” 

While his most recent job as Sheriff-Coroner kept him busy behind a desk, Allman has experience as a resident deputy and knows the unique responsibilities that come with the job. After becoming a peace officer in 1981, Allman transferred from the Fairfield Police Department to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, with his first assignment being the Laytonville Resident Deputy. Throughout the years, Allman rose through the ranks as Sergeant, Lieutenant and eventually Sheriff; during his career even completing a brief stint oversees as an International Peacekeeper for the United Nations in Kosovo.

However, despite having a long and decorated career, Allman said “the most fulfilling time of my career were the two years I spent in Laytonville as a resident deputy being a trusted problem solver. Out of everything I did, nothing was as fulfilling.”

Allman doesn’t take that trust lightly, recognizing the importance of mutual trust as the first step to solving problems and creating safer communities. He says building trust will be one of his first tasks in his new position.

“If a community doesn’t trust their law enforcement officer, chances are the law enforcement officer also doesn’t trust the community,” Allman said. “If a community knows their law enforcement officer by first name and trust him or her, hopefully that trust is going to work toward solving crimes and finding a solution.”

The second step to building a safer community, Allman says, is communication, something he has already begun with residents in the area through regular visits to the community prior to his appointment.

“Until we identify problems, we can’t work on solutions,” Allman said. “Communication problems can be like a blister; if you don’t take care of them, they will eventually pop. The quicker we get on them and address them, the quicker we can improve the quality of life.”

Allman says he believes improving the quality of life for the community is what it means to be “a good peacekeeper” and will bring an education-first approach of law enforcement to the Shelter Cove, Whitethorn and Mattole Valley communities.

“[Being a good peacekeeper] doesn’t mean going to work with the intention of just arresting someone or issuing a citation,” Allman said. “Those things may happen after other options are no longer viable.”

As resident deputy, Allman will be spending approximately four days a week on the Lost Coast, providing public safety services to residents in the Shelter Cove, Whitethorn and Mattole Valley communities. On days he is not assigned to work, coverage will be provided by Sheriff’s Deputies assigned to the Southern Humboldt area based out of the Garberville Substation.

The resident deputy position is funded through the County’s Measure Z Public Safety Sales Tax, with funding for the position earmarked in 2015 in the Sheriff’s Office first application to receive funds from the measure. Allman’s fulfillment of the position has been long-awaited by the Shelter Cove community.

“I think to many people in Shelter Cove having a resident deputy means a lot. Residents and business community members have been advocating for a Shelter Cove resident deputy for a long time,” said Justin Roberts, General Manager of the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District No. 1. “Residents and businesses of Shelter Cove greatly appreciate the leadership of Sheriff Billy Honsal in his effort to secure a resident deputy for the community.”

Roberts says the community looks forward to “the opportunity to build a positive and community-oriented relationship with local law enforcement officers to effectively address and reduce crime in the Shelter Cove, Whitethorn and Mattole Valley.”

Allman says he is up for the task and is eager to begin meeting the needs of the Lost Coast, with his number one goal being to ensure the community will have coverage for years to come by finding “his replacement.” He offers a free lunch to anyone willing to take the job. Until then, Allman says he’s excited to come out of retirement and get back to work, helping improve the quality of life in Humboldt County.


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