Opportunities for Veterans

Tell us a little about yourself (how long you have been on) and what you have done in your career with the Sheriff’s Department. Also, tell us about your military background.

Thomas Bensted
Sheriff’s Sergeant - Detentions

I have been on the Sheriff’s Department for 14 years. I started my career on July 28, 2000, which was the day after my 40th Birthday. I graduated from the 43rd Corrections Academy and was awarded the Motivational Award by my academy peers. After the academy I was sent to San Diego Central Jail (SDCJ) and assigned to Team 3. My first year was very exciting and everything was a new experience while learning all the post positions at SDCJ. I helped the team training officers with training scenarios, wrote training proposals, summaries and I was the Fire Deputy in charge of conducting quarterly fire training. I was selected to be a Training Officer after 14 months and a year later I was appointed a Corporal. As a Marine I learned establishing career goals are an important key to a successful career. I had a strong desire to work at the Detentions Academy as a Training Officer. I obtained my goal in 2005 when I was chosen as an Academy Training Officer for the Detentions and Court Services Academy. I helped train six Academies in physical fitness, PC 832 and the Standards of Training for Corrections. On February 1, 2008 I was promoted to the rank of Detentions Sergeant and I went back to SDCJ as a Team Sergeant. After eleven months I was chosen to transfer to the Las Colinas Detention Facility (LCDF). I spent six months on Team 4 and then I was selected as the Facility Training Sergeant. On February 28, 2011, I was chosen to go back to the Detentions Academy as the Detentions Academy Sergeant. I spent three years at the academy with the best Training Officers on the department, together we trained ten Academies.

The Detentions Academy is an extensive 16 week academy (The most extensive in the state of California) if you choose to join the Sheriff’s Department as a Detentions Deputy you will attend this academy. Ultimately, the most rewarding highlight of my career was the time I spent training new Detentions Deputies. With the help of some of the best Training Officers we trained over 500 new Detentions Deputy Sheriffs. Currently, I am the Career Path Sergeant for the Detentions and Court Services Bureau. I thoroughly enjoy working at the Sheriff’s Headquarters Building as the Career Path Sergeant and being the department’s resource for Detention/Court Service personnel information. So far, I have been awarded two Letters of Exemplary Performance and a Meritorious Unit Commendation. My current career goal is to promote to Detentions Lieutenant.

My military career helped prepare me for my career on the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. On August 22, 1979, I joined the Marines and went to recruit training at MCRD San Diego. My first duty station was at the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro California. I had an awesome career with over 21 years in the Marine Corps and I truly loved every minute of it. A few highlights of my Marine Corps career include Barracks Duty, Recruiting Duty and Drill Instructor Duty. During the cold war, I spent three years at Marine Barracks Bangor Washington providing security during loading and unloading of nuclear warheads on Trident Submarines. I spent three years on Recruiting Duty at Pasadena California where I enlisted 101 new Marines. I spent three years as a Drill Instructor at MCRD San Diego where I trained two platoons, taught every subject from history to first-aid to weapons. My proudest moment was helping design the “Crucible” (a three day training evolution which is still being taught in Marine Corps Recruit Training on both coasts).

How does the training in the academy compare to basic training?

The Sheriff’s Department training academy is Paramilitary. You are taught on day one that every time you respond to a staff member it will be a “Sir or Ma’am sandwich,” meaning the first and last word of any phrase starts and ends with is Sir or Ma’am. Military basic training is very similar however you can go home at the end of the day as a Sheriff Cadet. Like recruit basic training the Sheriff’s Academy is mental and physical and you are expected to perform at 100% effort every day. The Detentions Academy was the best training I ever experienced and the weapons training was the most extensive. I believe it was better than what I received in the military. A positive mental attitude will get you through the academy you just need to arrive early every day and be ready to train.

What was the biggest adjustment in transitioning from military to law enforcement?

Believe it or not the biggest transitioning adjustment was realizing you get paid a fair wage for what you do as a deputy. However, unlike the military, you actually get paid if you work overtime. In the Military you worked until the job was finished, there was no overtime you got paid the same even if you worked a 100 hour week. The other transitioning adjustment was starting over as a cadet and new deputy. However, the Sheriff Department is a professional organization and you get recognized for working hard and doing your job. Before you know it you are accepted as a team member and sought out as a resource because of your prior military experiences.

Will my training/experience in the military be taken into consideration?

Yes, as previously stated you are often times asked to provide input or opinions because you have been in the military. Very quickly I was asked to conduct training in the jails on many subjects related to what I did in the military because I had the experience.

Do you have any advice for service members considering a career in law enforcement?

Just do it! I have been a San Diego Sheriff for 14 years. It has gone by with a blink of an eye because I have had fun working with professionals in every job I held. If you are ready, finish your military career and then start your second and quite possibly your final career, until you are ready to retire again. For your hard work you will get good pay, paid vacations, special duty incentive pay and timely promotions.

What about retired service members that are concerned with their physical fitness level?

When I joined the Sheriff’s Department I started the Academy the day after my 40th Birthday. My fitness level was just right for the demands required. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit ups and running are a staple of academy training. Ironically the military has very similar physical requirements. If you are looking for a career with trust, respect, integrity, fairness, honesty, loyalty and diversity you just found it. The Sheriff’s Department is the oldest law enforcement organization in San Diego, since 1850! I joined the Sheriff’s Department because I wanted to be a part of an organization with a proud past and a bright future. Come join our team, you’ll be happy you did.

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