Bennett steps down as Chesy police chief

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, March 4, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — The police department for the Village of Chesapeake has the help wanted sign out as its long-time Chief Russell Bennett is leaving.

“Through a mutual agreement (Bennett) stepped down as chief effective March 9, 2009,” according to a press release issued by Mayor Dick Gilpin Tuesday afternoon.

Bennett, who had been on the Chesapeake force for 27 years, said the issue between him and the Gilpin administration centered on management.

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“The issue was mismanagement,” Bennett said. “They didn’t like the way I managed the place. They came to me and made me an offer. The first offer I refused. That was when Mr. Gilpin first became mayor. They wanted me to take early retirement.”

Bennett wanted to leave with 30 years’ service in order to get full retirement from the village. That was agreed upon this week between the two parties.

“They bought my retirement for three years,” Bennett said. “They agreed to pay for three years so I could get 30 years. … Three years means a lot of difference.”

Gilpin confirmed that the issue with the chief did revolve around management of the department.

“He wasn’t attending to details,” Gilpin said.

In November of 2008, Bennett ran unsuccessfully for Lawrence County Sheriff as an independent. A longtime Democrat, Bennett had tried to run on that party’s ticket in the March primary but was disqualified because the required background check was not current.

Bennett then solicited petitions gathering the required 191 signatures to put his name on the ballot as an independent. However, Lawrence County Auditor Ray T. Dutey filed a formal protest against that candidacy saying the police chief has a 20-plus year history of voting as a Democrat. The Board of Elections ruled in favor of Bennett who went on to be defeated by Jeff Lawless in a 2 to 1 margin.

Bennett, 52, who also owns an Exxon convenience store in Chesapeake, said he is not unhappy with leaving the police force.

“I am proud to have served the public. I have never been on any other police department than Chesapeake. That is something to be proud of, to stay somewhere for 27 years,” he said. “It was a very calm, mutual agreement. Politics is politics. I understand that.”

Currently, the law enforcement officer is also a Union Township constable and says he intends to continue to work at the Lawrence County Municipal Court, as well as continue to run his business.

The village is taking applications for the post and has not set a cutoff date, Gilpin said. An acting police chief will be chosen by Monday.

“Probably someone on the force. That would be the logical thing,” according to the mayor who said he believed the decision was good for Chesapeake.

When asked what the qualifications for the chief’s job are, Gilpin said, “Someone who works.”