COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Laura Bennett was sworn in today as Columbus State University’s new police chief, the first woman to serve in the role, after serving as interim chief since Sept. 2020 when former chief Mark Lott retired.

Bennett served as assistant chief from 2017 until stepping in as interim chief, according to a news release. Dr. Gina Sheeks, vice president for student affairs, said Bennett has her full confidence.

“Chief Bennett holds an impressive vision for strengthening University Police as a department, and also its relationships at Columbus State and beyond,” Sheeks said in the release.

“Her demonstrated commitment to community policing, her dedication to the safety and security of our faculty, staff, and students, and her willingness to engage and listen, are just a few of the many attributes that give me great confidence in her ability to continue providing outstanding service and care for our campus community.”

After taking the oath of office, Bennett said campus safety comes first.

“My desire to keep the campus safe is my top priority,” Bennett said. “I will continue to lead UPD in an equitable, fair and just manner. I will employ honest and trustworthy officers who model integrity and servant leadership.”

One of Bennett’s first actions will be launching a security survey for the campus.

CSU president Chris Markwood was on hand for the event. He touted Bennett’s relationships with students and with other public safety organizations in the Chattahoochee Valley community.

“Safe and secure campuses – and safe and secure college towns – are vital to our ability to recruit, retain and protect our students,” Markwood said. “Chief Bennett has demonstrated herself to be a capable leader and a bridge-builder between our police force and our student body, and between the university and her counterparts in the community.”

Bennett brings more than 30 years of law enforcement experience to the role, including 28 years as a lieutenant in the University of West Georgia Police Department.

Bennett also has the distinction of being the first officer from a university police department to receive the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Police Executive Law Enforcement Fellowship.

Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from UWG, a master’s in public safety from CSU, graduated from the University of Louisville Southern Police Institute’s administrative officer’s course, and holds an array of additional certifications in management, supervision, training, defensive tactics instruction, and health and wellness.