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Police chief announces retirement

Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett notified City Manager Patrick Roberts on Wednesday morning of his intent to retire.

The retirement will be effective Aug. 1, and Bennett will take leave until that time, Roberts said on Wednesday evening.

Bennett began his police career with the city of Newport News in 1984. 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 there in 2005. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from St. Leo College, as well as a master’s degree in public administration from Old Dominion University.

Bennett was sworn in as the chief of Suffolk Police Department on June 11, 2009. His predecessor was William Freeman, who served for seven years.

Roberts said Wednesday evening that Bennett’s retirement was “not unexpected.”

“He shared with me when I first became city manager that he would like to do 10 years in Suffolk, and I knew he hit that 10-year mark about a year ago,” Roberts said. “I’ve been on borrowed time with my police chief.”

The chief’s retirement comes amid a time of turmoil for the nation following the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis, Minn., man who was killed after a police officer knelt on neck for close to nine minutes. Protests across the nation have followed, including several in Suffolk.

Roberts said Bennett’s retirement was not forced or related to the unrest.

“Chief Bennett was not in any way encouraged, suggested or asked to leave by anybody,” Roberts said, “and I would bristle at any suggestion otherwise.”

Roberts said the Suffolk Police Department has built a good relationship with its community and kept it during Bennett’s tenure.

“Chief Bennett and his command staff and his front-line people have built an incredible police department,” Roberts said. “We are uniquely positioned in America right now to show this country how the police department builds and strengthens and leverages the relationship between the police department and the community in the tough times.”

Roberts said Maj. James “Danny” Buie, deputy chief of operations, is acting police chief for the immediate future. He also promised a robust, thorough and transparent process to select a new chief.