“If you were to go around the room and ask some of the retirees, you’d learn that sometimes retirement is bittersweet,” Police Chief Chris Carden said. “You get to start a new chapter in your life, but with that comes closure. Unfortunately, we’re losing you way too early, and I wish we could keep you around a lot longer.”
Allen, who served as a police officer for more than 25 years with more than a decade spent in Sylacauga, suffered life-threatening injuries after a car struck his police cruiser July 5, 2010.
“Tommy’s a special guy,” Carden said. “We all know what happened back in 2010. You were almost taken from us. A lot of times, we reflect back on that day — I know I do.”
Patrolman Chris Vinson, who was in Afghanistan at the time of Allen’s accident, has known Allen since 1990 when they both worked as police officers in Chambers County.
“It was great working with him, and I’m going to miss working with him every day,” Vinson said. “A lot of the stuff I know today is because of Allen teaching me. It was pretty tough for me being all the way over there and not knowing (whether or not he was all right). We were both roommates at one time, and he was like a brother to me.”
When Allen returned to work after his accident, he was reassigned as a training officer, enabling him to pass on his experience to the younger crop of police.
“Mayor (Doug) Murphree, Chief Carden and Louis Zook didn’t have to accommodate me, but they bent over backwards to help me. They put me in a role of training coordinator and I was able to make the best of it.”
Allen received widespread community support during his long road to recovery and earned recognition in October 2011 as Sylacauga’s Police Officer of the Year.
Carden presented Allen with a retirement plaque featuring Allen’s badge, badge number, the city seal and the Police Department core values.
“You’ve had a wonderful career, you’ve done a lot of things and you’ve blessed a lot of people,” Carden said. “You’ve probably changed some lives. You’ve made some friends, and you’ve probably made some enemies. At the end of the day, the most important thing was that you were obedient and you made a difference. Everybody at this Police Department has been honored to have been associated with you.”
Carden also allowed Allen to take home the plaque displayed at the Police Department honoring him as a Dupont Survivors Club member in 2011.
“One of the things that allows Tommy to be with us here today is because he was wearing his bulletproof vest the night he had the crash,” Carden said. “You’re a message board for police officers everywhere — you need to wear your vest to stay alive. We’d like for you to have (this plaque). Hang it up in your office and let everybody see that you survived.”
With more than a quarter century of experience walking off into the sunset, Carden noted it won’t be easy to replace what Allen brought to the table.
“Losing anybody is difficult,” Carden said. “When someone retires, you’re happy for them, but at the same time, it leaves a void that you have to fill. In this particular case, those are some big shoes to fill. We’re going to miss him. He’s a big member of this family and he was an asset to us for many years. We appreciate his service and we appreciate his family.”
Allen didn’t question the timing of his retirement and said it gives him more opportunities to spend time with his family and work on his golf game.
“It was just right,” he said. “I’m ready to move on to another chapter.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at email@example.com.