In a ceremony that was fittingly attended by family, friends, former police chiefs and other Suffolk residents, Suffolk’s new police chief took the oath of office on Thursday. The wide-ranging support shown for Chief Thomas Bennett is appropriate for a man of his apparent talents in a city that is beginning to realize the implications of a growing gang problem.
After spending a portion of his childhood living in Suffolk and then coming back to live here from 1996 to 2003, Bennett returns to a city that has begun to learn just how dangerous gangs and drugs can be to civilized society. Robberies, burglaries, violence and murders are the most heinous byproducts of that gang culture, but fear and intimidation are even more widespread.
Bennett comes home to Suffolk with an impressive résumé that should help him get police, prosecutors and citizens involved in the fight. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminology, a master’s degree in public administration. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. And during his career in Newport News, he served in uniformed patrol, major crimes investigation, the anti-crime task force, vice, narcotics and special projects for that department before being promoted to deputy chief in 2005.
It is important that his swearing-in ceremony was attended by two well-loved former Suffolk police chiefs and a competent interim chief, since Bennett will need to gain the trust and loyalty of his officers, as well as prominent and everyday citizens, in order to accomplish his job.
“The Suffolk Police Department will use every tool at its disposal to create a safer community,” he told those attending the ceremony on Thursday. One of those tools is community outreach, and it bodes well for the city that the results of a public survey to determine citizens’ desires for the qualities of a new police chief were referenced during City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn’s remarks at the Booker T. Washington Elementary School ceremony.
Integrity, honor and exceptional public service led that list of desired qualities.
If his experience in Newport News is any indication, Bennett will exhibit all of those traits and more.