Officer Bennett and his sidekick Justice take on CVHS



Officer Steven Bennett poses for a picture with his canine unit, Justice (Source: Steven Bennett)

Every morning, CVHS students begrudgingly saunter through the two front doors of the school, past the front office and into the hallway as the 8:30 bell rings glaringly. And every morning for two weeks, Officer Steven Bennett has stood at those two front doors, making sure that every one of those students got a fist bump to start their day off on a good foot.

Bennett, however, isn’t just a fist-bumper. Chances are, if you have seen him walking through the halls with his canine unit, Justice, you know that Bennett spreads a contagious sense of spirit and community with him wherever he goes. This is why the officer chose to be an officer in the first place. 

“These small fist bumps would turn into a lot more, you know, so just by me doing that every morning for an hour for the kids, saying hello and treating people like people, they remember that. That’s what I love to do. Just to help people. That’s me,” Bennett said.

This HISD Police Department officer didn’t begin his career in law enforcement, but rather as a soldier serving in the U.S. Army, deployed to places like Afghanistan and Kuwait. 

“I served proudly for seven years. That was something I’m very, very proud of. I learned a lot when I was doing my time in the army, seeing the world from a different lens,” Bennett said.

However, after completing his deployment and returning home, Bennett found himself lost in a maze of different career possibilities. 

“I was trying to find a way to serve when I got out, and I was just kind of lost, but I knew I wanted to serve. I knew I wanted a purpose,” Bennett said.

Bennett decided to explore the nursing field, but he quickly realized that it wasn’t the path for him due to the excessive amounts of math (which many can sympathize with).

Luckily for him, during this time, Bennett was approached by a captain who asked him about his interest in law enforcement, proposing the idea of becoming a deputy. Ever since becoming a police officer in 2006, Bennett has loved his job tirelessly. However, his love comes with some frustrations as well. 

“You have a lot of people who hate us merely because of this patch, you know; they don’t know me as a person, as a man, as a human being. They just know what I work for,” Bennett said.

Bennett’s experience in the army was his introduction to a career of serving others, but his first inspiration to serve is rooted in his childhood. As a kid, Bennett and his family were homeless for three years, living between shelters. During this time, they met a woman named Marina, who ran one of the shelters they stayed in. She began to look out for Bennett’s family, making sure they were always fed. Even when they got back on their feet, Marina remained in the family’s life. Bennett is still very close with her today, and whenever he makes a visit to Maryland, his home state, the officer takes Marina out to lunch.

“She was a big fixture in my life. She inspired me to help people back in 1989, and I didn’t know it then. But when I got to the point where I was like, ‘I want to help people like Marina helped us,’ I got hooked on it,” Bennett said.

Marina isn’t Bennett’s only inspiration, though. The officer’s mother has always been his role model, motivating him to work just as hard as she always had. Growing up, Bennett would see her walk for miles to feed him and his siblings and spend the entire day between appointments working to get her family the services they needed to get back on their feet.

“She would never sit down. She always felt that she could do something. So I kind of got inspiration from her to just not sit down… I want to use my time and use it to the best,” Bennett said.

Bennett works to expose youth to positive police interactions in an effort to solve tensions and shift negative perceptions students have toward officers. During his two weeks of working on CVHS’s campus, countless students befriended Bennett. Although Bennett has some different responsibilities as an HISD PD officer, he has all the same credentials as a regular officer, with the same arresting authorities, and additional crisis intervention training so that he is fully equipped to address mental health crises and trauma in students he may meet on the job.

“I think it takes a special individual to be able to, you know, deal with the youth and understand the youth and interact with the youth… a lot of officers that work for HISD PD do have a passion for the kids,” Bennett said.

Bennet also has the help of his canine unit, Justice, who is a result of the PAWS (Police Animal Wellness Services) program. This program equips school officers with dogs so that they can better provide mental health services to students on the campuses they visit.

PAWS dogs like Justice are specifically trained to provide comfort and therapeutic measures to those struggling with behavioral, developmental, and mental health issues. During Bennett’s two-week interim term at Carnegie, he was always seen in the halls with students swarming around him to pet the beloved Justice.

Now, Bennett is no longer “stationed” at Carnegie, but he still regularly visits the campus with Justice, along with kindness and a contagious sense of community.