Call her a Renaissance woman.
Musician, historian, photographer, artist, world traveler, animal lover, mom and former Edmonds animal control officer Tabatha Shoemake is poised to become an even greater presence in the community as she transitions into her role as the Edmonds Police Department’s new community engagement officer.
“I am so excited about serving my community in this way,” she exclaimed with her signature smile and enthusiasm. “This new job allows me to tap into my creative side and use my ‘superpowers’ – engaging with and talking to people – to foster deeper understandings and appreciation of our amazing police department, the things we do in the community, and the many ways citizens can be partners in preventing crime and keeping our community safe.”
A 13-year veteran of the police department, Shoemake joined in the hope of moving into the position of crime prevention officer. At the time, Robin Heslop was in that job, but was approaching retirement.
“I started with animal control as a way to get my foot in the door,” explained Shoemake. “Unfortunately, when Robin retired her position was eliminated due to budget cuts. But hey, I really love the animal control job. I get to use my ‘superpowers’ to engage, educate and talk to people about animal behavior and care, and generally share the joys of pet ownership. And it still gives me chills when I reunite a family with a lost pet. There’s nothing like seeing the looks on the kids’ faces when the pet comes home.”
Growing up with four brothers and one sister in Anchorage, Alaska, Shoemake confesses – a bit sheepishly – that from an early age she was attracted to law enforcement.
“I was always that kid with the crime magazines,” she laughs. “I was forever telling my brothers the proper way to do things and enforcing the rules. I guess I’m just a natural cop!”
While she was still in high school, her family relocated to Washington state and found a place in south Seattle. After high school, she came to Edmonds to attend Edmonds Community College (now Edmonds College), and after college was hired on at EPD. She and her then-husband settled here and had two children. Her 17-year-old son still lives with her, and her older daughter is married and living in Boston. Shoemake has been living on her own for the past five years, so tight finances forced a move to more affordable housing in Mountlake Terrace, where she and her son reside today with their two dogs, a cat, a bearded dragon and fish (yes, she’s quite the animal-lover!).
Speaking about her position, Shoemake said she is pleased to be involved in department’s new approach to policing.
“Community engagement is the coming thing, especially with police departments,” she says. “I’m here to be part of a two-way dialog where I listen to what the community has to say, find out first-hand what they need, and bring this back to the department. At the same time, I’m here to tell EPD’s story, what we offer the community, and that we’re here to help. Edmonds doesn’t stop at the Bowl, and I’ll be working to ensure that everyone feels included. Part of this is going up on Highway 99 and engaging with immigrants and others who may not speak English as their first language. I want to help everyone understand that EPD is here to help, and that we can be trusted.”
With the COVID pandemic and the recent controversy around selection of the new Edmonds police chief, it has been a particularly trying time for the Edmonds Police Department.
“There’s no denying that this has been a tough time for all of us at EPD,” she said. “But we all pulled together like a family. We knew it was OK to talk to each other, be upset, share feelings. That’s how we’re getting through it. We hung together (I’m getting chills just thinking about it). The department is people – not just folks in dark blue uniforms. There’s a lot of compassion here. I also want to point out that as a woman of color I have never had any issues with racism in the department. Yeah, we’re a family.”
In her off-hours, Shoemake often finds it tough to divide her time among her many outside interests.
“I can’t imagine my life without my pets. And I so love history – when I visited Pompeii I got so into the intricacies. I was amazed to find that they had hot and cold running water! Oh, and I was in London on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s beheading. And then there’s music and singing, art and drawing.
“On my days off I can be really torn,” she added. “Do I play music and sing, do I pull out my art supplies and create, do I take my dogs out for some exercise, do I study up on 17th century history (my favorite period), do I watch the History Channel, do I go on a photo shoot, spend time with my son – it can be really challenging!” she laughs.
Lately, the priority that often wins out is her dog, Berlin. A 7-month-old Rottweiler, Berlin still has a lot of puppy in him, and craves the exercise and socialization.
“I love how big dogs just bring people out,” she says. “Folks see me and walk out of their homes to say hello. One woman would even set her alarm clock so she could get up and meet us on our daily walk. More people know Berlin’s name than mine!”
It’s a safe bet that this will change as Tabatha Shoemake reaches out into the community in her new role, and more people engage with her, get to know her, and come to appreciate the special mix of talents she brings to Edmonds.
— By Larry Vogel