UCPD Chief Margo Bennett plans to retire, Black Student Union looks forward

photo of women cops around a table
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Following two decades of service, UCPD Chief Margo Bennett will retire in June 2022. Campus’s Black Student Union noted the changes and practices it hopes to see implemented within UCPD moving forward, such as increasing transparency and working more closely with the IAB.

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After two decades of service, UCPD Chief Margo Bennett will trade in her uniform for retirement in June 2022.

UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher announced Bennett’s plans to retire in a campuswide email Monday. Bennett joined UCPD as a captain in 2002, according to Fisher. With the support of the campus administration and her fellow officers, Bennett was promoted to UCPD Chief of Police in 2013.

“It has been an honor to serve the Cal community for the last 20 years, and I will truly miss my colleagues on campus,” Bennett said in an email. “I’m proud of the leading-edge work we have done to improve community policing, and yet I know there is more work to be done. I am confident my colleagues stand ready and are committed to carrying on this important work.”

In her eight years of leadership, Fisher said one of the most “important and exciting” initiatives Bennett has worked on is the development of a mental health response team. This team of mental health professionals will be tasked with responding to mental health crises instead of uniformed officers. According to Fisher, this plan will be put into practice sometime between January 2022 and the start of the fall 2022 semester.

Bennett also championed the removal of the carotid chokehold throughout the UC system, according to Fisher. This was part of the 8 Can’t Wait initiative, a series of eight policies designed to curtail police violence in response to the murder of George Floyd.

Although Bennett was praised for the implementation of this and other initiatives, campus’s Black Student Union, or BSU, chair Kyra Abrams alleged that the Chancellor’s Independent Advisory Board on Police Accountability and Community Safety, or IAB, made similar recommendations long before Floyd’s murder. The recommendations, however, were not implemented until after the fact.

Fisher added that Bennett has “made her mark” on UCPD’s community engagement. She organized a campuswide survey about UCPD to get community feedback, implemented a peer-review process with police departments of other universities and included campus and community representatives in the officer hiring process, among other initiatives.

Such community engagement has also involved meeting with BSU. According to Abrams, these conversations have revolved around removing the fleet of UCPD cars from the back entrance of Sproul Hall, firing officers who have “brutalized Black students on campus” and working in tandem with the Black community.

Abrams noted, however, that such conversations are usually “one and done.” As a result, there has never been constant communication between UCPD and the Black community, Abrams said.

“(UCPD) either gets defensive or it’s like, ‘I’m only here to talk to you for this one meeting and that’s it,’ ” Abrams said. “Personally, I don’t think any of those meetings have been productive. That’s … one of the many reasons why we’ve called for the abolition of UCPD across all UC campuses.”

Short of abolition, Abrams said UCPD needs to implement certain practices. This includes removing fingerprinting, resolving gaps in their posted financial statements and budgets and working more closely with the IAB.

Overall, Abrams is looking for complete transparency.

“They should have, in my opinion, no privacy,” Abrams said. “At the end of the day, if you’re not going to publicly give us information as we ask for it and be defensive, then there’s just no reason to have a conversation.”

Contact Veronica Roseborough at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article implied that UCPD does not make its financial statements and budget public. In fact, UCPD has published its spending, revenue and salaries for fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2019 on its FAQ page.