by Ski Ingram
I was hired by the Long Beach City Police Department on June 1, 1982. I was the oldest guy in my academy class at age 32. I was in great shape as I was in the Army Reserves and the Executive Officer on a Green Beret “A” team.
We had two Tac officers at the police academy, Sergeant (Sgt.) Leary and Sgt. Bennett. On my first day in the academy, I was chosen to be the first Cadet Class Company Commander. That was okay with me as I had a lot of experience leading men while in the Army. The class Commander’s duties were many. I’ll name just a few. Make sure each cadet is in the proper uniform for each class. Make sure they are on time to class, especially after each break. Hold a formation each morning and report on class members who are present and those who may be absent. In short you are responsible to ensure the cadet class is where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s a big job. I was responsible for taking care of myself and the other 31 cadets.
At the end of that first week Sgt. Leary asked me into his office. It was then that he told me that Sgt. Bennett had wanted another man to be the first-class Commander. He also told me that he was going to retire at the of the day and that I may experience trouble from Sgt. Bennett since he, Sgt. Leary, had overruled him on who should be the first class Commander.
As it turned out I did have trouble from Sgt. Bennett. I was sure that every day he tried to get me tossed out of the class. After about eight weeks he designated me the class Commander a second time. I’m sure he was hoping that I would do something that would get me thrown out of the class.
One day we were out on the parade field practicing handcuffing techniques. The parade field was full of holes that were dug by gophers or “ground squirrels” as Sgt Bennett called them. At some point during the class Officer Castillo, who was one of our instructors, put a hose down one of the holes and turned on the water. A squirrel poked his head up out of the water-filled hole. Officer Castillo yelled “get him.” Cadet Waddington was waiting for the squirrel to poke his head out of the water so he could hit him in the head with his handcuffs. When the squirrel popped his head up, I pushed Waddington out of the way and kicked the squirrel about 25 feet. The dead squirrel landed at the feet of Sgt. Bennett and two female cadets who were standing next to him. When I saw the look of horror on their three faces, I knew I was in big trouble.
At the conclusion of the handcuffing class, I was ordered into Sgt. Bennett’s office. He asked me why I had killed the squirrel? I told him that Officer Castillo said to “get him” so I kicked him. Sgt. Bennett asked Officer Castillo, who was in the room, if that was true. Officer Castillo told Sgt. Bennett that he had not said that. To say the least I was very upset and disappointed that Officer Castillo would lie. I wanted to ask Officer Castillo, “then why did you put the water hose down the hole”? I also wanted to ask Sgt. Bennett why he was always complaining about the “ground squirrels” digging holes in the parade field if he didn’t want them killed? I decided this was not the time or place to defend myself. I knew Sgt. Bennett wanted to punish me for being chosen to be the first class Company Commander and now he had the chance.
Sgt. Bennett told me I was to stand at the flag pole until I was sorry for what I had done. I told him right then that I was sorry for what I had done. He told me to go out and stand by the flag pole until he told me not to.
I left his office and stood at parade rest in front of the flag pole. Standing at the flag pole was a punishment that was used very often when a cadet committed an infraction. If ordered to do so, you had to stand at parade rest facing the flag pole during all breaks. You were given 10 minutes to eat lunch and then the rest of the hour you were to be standing at the flag pole. You had no time to interact with your class mates or discuss what you learned in class that day. Also, it was not fun at all. Cadet Stanley Ziemelis and I rode to class together each day so I was able to discuss with him on our ride to and from class what was going on.
After 10 days of standing in front of the flag pole I was called back into Sgt. Bennett’s office. He asked me why I had not come to tell him how sorry I was for killing the ground squirrel. I reminded I’m that I had told him how sorry I was that first day before he sent me out to stand in front of the flag pole. He looked at me for a few moments and then said “go back to class.” I was no longer required to stand in front of the flag pole. I’m sure that Sgt. Bennett was not happy with that exchange.
The next morning Sgt Bennett passed out a sheet of paper to each cadet with the Police Officer’s Code of Ethics written on it. He then announced that the whole class would have to hand write the first half of the Code of Ethics and turn it in to him each morning. We hand wrote the first half for about 30 days and then hand wrote the second half for another 30 days.
I’m sure he had the whole class do this in hopes that they would blame me for the extra work and then ostracize me. I’m happy to report that it did not work and I graduated on Sept. 21st with the rest of the class.
Sgt. Bennett resigned from the Police Department and took a job with the Police Officers Standards and Training committee in Sacramento, California. I hadn’t seen Sgt. Bennett for a number of years when he showed up at Sgt Leary’s funeral. I was part of the Police Honor Guard in charge of the flag folding detail. There were about 15 of us sitting in the last row of the Catholic church before the service began when up walked Sgt. Bennett. He said hello to us and then proceeded to walk down the row shaking everyone’s hand. When he got to me, I said hello, but did not stick out my hand to shake his. He looked at me for a moment, then continued down the line. That was the last time I saw Sgt. Micky Bennett.
Police Officer’s Code of Ethics
As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice.
I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me or to my agency. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed both in my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the law and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.
I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.
I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of police service. I will never engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will I condone such acts by other police officers. I will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.
I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.
I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession… law enforcement.