Shane Allison did not grow up wanting to wear a policeman's uniform; in fact, he had aspirations in college to be an attorney. But a chance conversation at a local restaurant changed that, and at the end of this month, he will be unpinning his badge after more than 16 years as Eddyville's police chief.
"It's been a ride," the 48-year-old said.
He publicly announced his decision at last week's city council meeting, calling it a financial decision tied to retirement benefits.
"I still enjoy most parts of the job," he said last Wednesday, sitting in the conference room at the PD.
Allison was one of the first officers to join the City of Eddyville's new police department in April 1998 and has been on the city's payroll longer than any current employee. Hired by then-Chief Bill Craig, he was appointed to head the agency in the fall of 2003 upon his predecessor's retirement.
Now, with more than 20 years of hazardous duty service with Kentucky's public retirement system, Allison will be able to draw a full pension and enjoy a few months of fishing as he ponders his future. His initial plans would have seen him trade in his police issue firearm for a fishing pole in August of next year, but changes to the state's ailing pension system would have penalized him for working into 2020.
Mayor John Choat has high praise for Allison and the job he has done as a patrolman and chief.
"He's going to very much be missed," Choat said. "Shane is just about as good a guy as you'd ever want to meet."
The mayor uses terms like honest, ethical, strong moral character and great communicator to describe the man he worked alongside as a municipal employee for 17 years. Choat retired from Eddyville's public works department in 2015.
"He has the perfect personality to be a police officer," said Choat, who was appointed to head the city last year upon the death of then-mayor Nancy Slayton. "I've never seen him mad, and he treats everybody fairly."
Allison graduated from Bremen High School in Muhlenberg County and ended up in Eddyville as a geographic compromise with his wife Ann, whom he married in 1995. He was taking classes at Murray State University to complete a degree in criminal justice and political science after a stint in the Army. His wife was in Madisonville, where they had met at the YMCA. Eddyville falls midway between and is where Allison had enjoyed fishing the lakes over the years with a childhood friend.
"Eddyville is a very good place to work," Allison said. "It's a very good place to live."
He was working in heating and cooling to supplement income from the karate studio the couple started in 1995 when he was introduced to then-Mayor Jerry Peek at the Country Cupboard restaurant in the late 1990s. Peek, whom Allison's father-in-law knew from working together in the mines, asked the new Eddyville resident if he might be interested in joining the city's new police department.
"I wanted to be a lawyer," Allison said of his reaction to the prospect of joining putting on the uniform. "I had thought about it, but it was not one of those things I was set on as a kid."
Craig did not immediately share Peek's idea about hiring a black belt in karate and military veteran with airborne training and a background in psychological operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"We don't want this guy, he'll probably hurt somebody," Allison explained, offering his recollection of the reason the city's first police chief gave for not interviewing him initially.
Peek, Allison said, encouraged Craig to reconsider.
"We talked for about 20 minutes, and he asked when I could go to the police academy."
Within days of one another, Allison began his law enforcement training in Richmond and became an expectant father. In fact, for most of the first two of months of his wife's pregnancy with Connor, now 21, Allison was nearly four hours away earning his badge.
In five short years, Craig was gone and Allison ascended to the city's top cop as the state's youngest police chief at the time. Over the last 16 years, he has maintained Eddyville Police Department's accreditation with the Kentucky Law Enforcement Professional Standards Committee and kept the small city force ahead of many larger departments.
"That's one thing I'm proud of. We do a lot of things that small agencies don't," Allison said. "But I can't take all the credit for that."
Since 2006, EPD has had an officer assigned to Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force, working 100-150 cases per year to battle the substance abuse scourge in Kentucky. In fact, Allison said drugs are the No. 1 problem he has faced as head of the police department.
Through that partnership, the local agency has worked with the Internal Revenue Service to put big-time drug dealers behind bars and seize their ill-gotten assets. EPD was one of only three departments in Kentucky assigned to that financial crimes team until the program ended several years ago.
Allison is also proud of what his department has done with code enforcement, keeping the city looking good and well kept without coming down hard on violators.
The city has kept the police department funded well enough for Allison to maintain a sufficient force. Today, there are six officers, the same number as when he was hired as chief more than 15 years ago. That number has fallen to as low as two, but only because of a shortage of applicants.
"City hall has always been supportive of us," he said.
Allison said long hours, working holidays and special occasions, the stress level and a change in public perception of law enforcement due to national headlines can make it difficult to be a police officer. But the rewards for him have outweighed the negatives.
"If I could help save someone from a life of prison or addiction, it's worth talking to them about," he said. "I'll retire knowing I did help some people. I'm retiring without any enemies."
The job has had its challenges, but that has been one of Allison's favorite parts of the job. Knowing he was going to retire, he has literally tried to work himself out of a job, to become a dispensable commodity in order to make the transition for the department easier.
"I think I can go fishing, and they'll be fine," he said of his fellow officers after Nov. 30. "I think the department is ready to move forward and do what they do."
Allison is not quite sure how he will feel when he wakes up Dec. 1. But he is certain it will take an adjustment period living without the stress of the job.
"I'll probably get back into some sort of law enforcement," he said of his long-term future. "I feel its my calling."
Choat will appoint an interim chief upon Allison's departure. The mayor wants the chief's permanent replacement, though, to be a joint decision with the six-member city council.
Lt. Jaime Green, who has worked alongside Allison for the last 18 years, will become the city's longest-tenured employee when her chief walks away at the close of the month. She intends to apply for the job when the time comes.