Mike Bennett may be a rookie Bartow Police Department officer, having joined the force this month, but he is no novice to law enforcement. He boasts a 37-year career, with 28 of those with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office before he retired this past July 31.
He did not want to retire but had to because he had enrolled with the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). However, retirement was not a uniform that fit him. While he enjoyed the new-found time with his children, still, time weighed heavily. He said he also missed the structure, as well as one other element.
“If you’re in this field as long as I have (been), you miss that camaraderie,” said Bennett during his first week with the BPD. “There are my friends, my compatriots.”
So he began applying to the local police departments in Polk County, and it was the Bartow Police Department that took an interest. He was contacted by BPD in December.
One of the aspects BPD found appealing about Bennett was his depth of experience. Having already been in law enforcement almost four decades, it would not be surprising if Bennett masters the learning curve in an accelerated fashion, said Cpl. Bryan S. Dorman, Community Services Team Supervisor.
However, like all new recruits, Bennett is learning BPD policy and procedures. In all, there will be a total of three phases, each one month in length, before he is a full-fledged Bartow Police officer.
In addition, continued Dorman, Bennett might also end up serving as a mentor to younger members of the force. That would be something Bennett said he would welcome, as would the opportunity to progress.
“I have my eyes set for supervisor,” he said. “It would be nice to run a shift.”
Advancement, he said, was something he passed up while he was with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which he joined in May 1985. While with the PCSO, he was a deputy on the road. Along with Dennis Harper, he was one of the PSCO’s first traffic investigators. He also was a K-9 deputy. For 11 years, working the night shift, he was in aviation (helicopter). Toward the end of his PCSO career, he returned to the patrol division.
While he has set his sights upon possibly, ultimately, moving into a supervisory role with the BPD, Bennett expressed the desire to put in at least 10 years with the police force. He said he also looked forward to experiencing the difference being a member once again with a local police force — he used to be with the Haines City and Plant City police departments before he became a PCSO deputy.
“It’s quieter, but it’s a community. You get to know the people,” Bennett said. “It’s nice to go into a place and they know you by name.”