Police Chief Bennett retires | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police Chief Bennett retires

After 31 years of police duty, South Lake Tahoe police and fire chief Brad Bennett will retire next week.

The departure will allow Bennett more time for camping, golfing and housework but makes it a cumbersome task for recently hired city manager David Jinkens to fill the position. Cmdr. Rich McGuffin will be the interim chief.

Bennett has been a police officer since 1971, where he started his career in Ventura, Calif. In 1974, already seduced by the mountain life while attending Washington State University for his criminal justice degree, he moved to South Lake Tahoe.

Bennett’s been fired upon, but he never pulled his trigger while on-duty. He’s wrestled a guy with a gun before his partner shot the suspect. While showing up at a new officer’s house for an extensive background check, he kidded that dead leaves scattered on the front lawn would make the report as a criticism.

Bennett’s wife, Diane, said there are mixed emotions in the retirement. One is melancholy about leaving the police and city family but the other is joyous that the couple is young and healthy enough to enjoy the newfound time.

“I think he’ll miss it to some extent but not enough to come back,” said Diane. “If he comes back to law enforcement he wants to become a marshal on the golf course.”

Bart Owens, a retired commander, was the new guy with the leaves on his lawn. Owens joked that Bennett, who has a doctorate in public administration, always calls him when the sink leaks or a door is loose.

But throughout the years, the same guy who knocked on Owen’s door to conduct a background check has never let the power get to his head.

“He ran through the ranks faster than I did,” Owens said. “I always looked for that change.”

When Bennett was around 13 years old, his brother, Jerry, older by nine years, was in the police academy in Ventura. Jerry would practice his baton moves and handcuff techniques on his younger brother. Curious about the affects of Mace on people, Jerry would rub it in Brad’s eyes.

Through Jerry, and the work he was doing with the community, Brad Bennett had a role model and an idea of what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

“Once I saw what he was doing, I wanted to do it as well,” Bennett said.

Behind his desk sits a mural painting of a wanted poster with a pistol, badge, pocketwatch an bullet on top of it. Next to the mural sits 12 badges, including a replica Wyatt Earp badge, in a glass case.

The Old West is an interest, but Bennett said he wouldn’t want to be an officer during those dusty times.

Throughout the years, Bennett has witnessed an excelling change in law enforcement and crime at South Lake Tahoe. Burglary and theft has given way to drugs and domestic violence. To fight crime, he has solidified the relationships between surrounding agencies, and served on the Latino Affairs Commission and is a board member at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.

“It takes a community effort to make a community safe,” he said.

With that, Bennett picked up his 6-foot-1 frame, walked down the halls of the police department to attend a retirement party for Ray Anthony, a maintenance worker.

“I think this shows the most important retirement here,” he said with a smile.

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.

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