Margo Bennett appointed UCPD chief of police

Michael Drummond/File
Margo Bennett has served as UCPD’s interim police chief since December.

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After 10 years of working for the department as a captain, Margo Bennett has been appointed the new UCPD chief of police.

Bennett has been acting as interim chief of police since former chief Mitch Celaya stepped down from the position in December. This prompted a nationwide search for a new chief that saw the initial pool of 71 candidates narrowed down to four before Bennett was finalized.

“I’m totally honored to be receiving this appointment,” Bennett said. “This is a great department to work for, and we got some great people here, so I’m excited and anxious to get to work.”

Bennett has been with the department for more than a decade and has over 35 years of law enforcement experience, according to a statement by Associate Vice Chancellor of Business and
Administrative Services Ron Coley Thursday morning.

“She has an understanding of the culture of our community and the workings of the department that will prove invaluable as we institute the type of significant changes that are necessary to achieve our goals of exceptional security and service,” Coley said in the statement.

The selection process included a forum held at the end of March, during which students had the opportunity to talk with the four remaining finalists and ask them questions about what they would do as chief. The other finalists included Rhonda Harris, chief of police at Old Dominion University; Eric Heath, deputy chief of police at the University of Chicago; and Nate Johnson, chief law enforcement officer for the California State University system.

News of the appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by UCPD, excited at the prospect of working under Bennett.

“She’s done a great job keeping us on track,” said Lt. Eric Tejada, UCPD’s spokesperson. “She has a very inclusive management style and is very aware of the needs of the university.”

Bennett hopes to implement a better way to approach protests on campus, learning from the mistakes made during the Occupy Cal demonstrations in 2011 that saw UCPD officers strike students with batons.

“It’s a situation that many don’t want to see repeated,” Bennett said. “I regret anytime the police take action where people are hurt, especially students … I’m hoping we can develop stronger relationships across the campus to help us accomplish a common good.”

These relationships include all facets of the campus including the students, staff and faculty, according to a university press release.

“Such ties should lead to more individuals contacting the police department about crimes and suspicious activities, and working with the department to ensure that campus events can be handled through the cooperative engagement of all involved,” the statement said.

Andy Nguyen is the lead crime reporter. Contact him at [email protected]
and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Truc.