Chief Margo Bennett. Photo: Kalonica McQuesten, UCPD
Chief Margo Bennett joined the University of California Police Department in 2002. Photo: Kalonica McQuesten, UCPD

Tuesday afternoon, Cal Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau swore in Margo Bennett as the new police chief at the University of California at Berkeley.

Bennett was appointed to the position in April after former Chief Mitchell Celaya announced his retirement, effective Dec. 30, 2012, in October. As chief, she will manage UCPD’s 149 employees, including 66 sworn officers.

According to a short report posted by UCPD: “After a slightly awkward, yet good humored, moment in the course of the swear-in itself, one when Margo Bennett, her hand raised, graciously corrected Chancellor Birgeneau in the swear-in litany, inserting a line he’d missed about abiding by and supporting ‘the constitution and laws of the State of California,’ after having sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, her family stepped forward to pin her with the new ranks.” 

Photo: Peg Skorpinski
Photo: Peg Skorpinski

Bennett read the following statement to those who attended the ceremony.

I want to thank everyone for being here. I want to thank the Chancellor for swearing me in today. It’s a time honored tradition and it means a lot to me and to members of the police department. It’s an honor to have the campus top official perform that duty and I thank you for that. Thank you Vice Chancellor Wilton for hosting this, for being a part of it, and Ron AVC Coley for being Master of Ceremonies and kicking this off.

Thanks to everyone for being here, and for the show of support, for the literally hundreds of emails I have gotten since the announcement was made. It has made me feel better about taking this job. It’s true, I’ve been home late more often than not, and I’m pretty sure that trend is going to continue.

Thank you members of UCPD for your support. It’s meant a tremendous amount to me. We have much work ahead of us, and we’re going to have fun doing it. Thank you to Chief Harrison for taking the risk and hiring me 10-plus years ago and to Mitch Celaya for continuing my growth in the critical roles of the police department.

People have asked why in the world I would take this position. The only thing I can say is, well I lack words to describe it, other than to say I feel called to do this job, to take this role of leadership and be the leader of our police department at this particular point in time.

UCPD has and will continue to hire a high-quality employee. We have people who have the core values, who definitely identify with Berkeley. They have the core values of respect and trust, of inclusiveness. They have the desire to work with campus partners and seek sustainable solutions, they want to work with others to make it easier to get all of our jobs done, and they are willing to hold themselves accountable for their actions

Certainly every member of our department understands that this campus expectation of timely and excellent service must be met and that is what we intend to do. My role as chief of police is to strengthen our connections on this campus, to create new ones where there are voids, and to fortify ones that need to be fortified. That’s what I intend to do, and I intend to do it the only way I know how, and that is to follow the six words that best define me:

Act justly
Love mercy
Walk humbly

I promise to do that.
I’m honored and humbled to be your Chief of Police,
We have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to get started
Thank you.

Photo: Kalonica McQuesten, UCPD

Bennett earned a bachelor’s in sociology and criminal justice, and a master’s in counseling psychology, at West Georgia University, then rose to the level of lieutenant there before moving to the FBI, where she worked for more than a decade. She later served as police chief at the Northern Virginia Community College Police Department. The multi-campus institution is the nation’s second-largest community college. Bennett joined the University of California Police Department as a captain in 2002.

According to a statement posted earlier this year by the university: “Ron Coley, UC Berkeley’s associate vice chancellor for business and administrative services, led the nationwide search for a chief, which drew scores of candidates. To ensure that the campus had an inclusive process, finalists met with a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including faculty, students, police officers, administrators, staff and others. Each group provided detailed feedback used in the final selection decision.”

Coley said, according to the statement, that Bennett’s deep understanding of the community and department would be assets for the agency moving forward: “We evaluated a number of solid candidates, and it was clear that Margo was the right choice,” he said.

The department’s jurisdiction includes the central campus, as well as other UC-owned property such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University Village in Albany and the Richmond Field Station.

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