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story.lead_photo.caption Texarkana, Arkansas, Police Department Sgt. Kristi Bennett Photo by Submitted to the Texarkana Gazette / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Ark. — Kristi Bennett has been named as the new Texarkana, Arkansas, police chief.

City Manager Dr. Kenny Haskin announced Bennett's appointment Monday afternoon.

Bennett is the department's first woman chief of police and first new chief in 31 years.

Bennett holds a master's degree from Southern Arkansas University and has served as interim chief since September 1, 2020. Prior to her appointment as interim chief, she served with TAPD in several significant roles since she joined the department in 2005.

"I am honored to be named police chief," Bennett said. "I have spent the last 17 years in a job which I dearly love. My motivation and drive to always be better and attempt to improve the situation for others has provided for me an exceptional and successful career," she said.

Bennett said she plans to continue to establish excellent working relationships with regional law enforcement agencies, city government officials, and local community members.

"By including city government in the operations of the agency, I believe we can give a better understanding of how best to bring about the changes we are looking for," she said. "Additionally, with the help of civic and community leaders in Texarkana, we will continue to build and strengthen the bond of trust we want to establish between TAPD and the community."

Bennett said TAPD is a highly motivated agency and with the continued effort toward change, there are several things that can be done to also make it a highly competitive one that will encourage employee retention and strengthen morale.

"By enlisting input and suggestions from every officer and civilian employee at TAPD, we have already implemented several changes toward this goal. Some of these changes include a focus on recruiting motivated and educated candidates, establishing elite training for both the physical and mental well being of our employees, updating outdated policies that fail to meet the needs of a changing society, and actively seeking more community relationships. We look forward to continuing to set new goals and achieving them," she said.

Haskin said Bennett is well known and well respected both in the community and statewide and has received local, state, and national recognition for her work within law enforcement.

The PRIDE (Personal Responsibility in Daily Effort) program she developed has been copied by police departments in many other places.

The PRIDE program works with middle school students and helps them learn self-esteem and life skills.

"She has exhibited excellent leadership abilities during her tenure as interim chief, and her innovative and creative mindset has already formulated plans that will carry our police department to new heights in fairness, cooperation, and employee and community relations," Haskin said.

In 2016, when she was a corporal, Bennett was honored by the National Association of Police Organizations in Washington D.C. She won honorable mention in the TOP COP awards and represented Arkansas.

Bennett's appointment comes after the retirement of Chief Robert Harrison. Harrison had been TAPD police chief since 1990 and had been with the department since 1973.

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