Former Chief Al Roque accepted a new position at the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

John BennettAfter the announcement Monday, Feb. 25, that Cornelius would be getting a new chief of police, the community didn't have to wait long to find out who it is.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office and the City of Cornelius announced Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 26, that they have selected Lt. John Bennett to succeed Al Roque as Cornelius' police chief.

Bennett has served in a number of roles with the Sheriff's Office. Most recently, he oversaw the agency's school resource officer program, working closely with Washington County's school districts.

"Lieutenant John Bennett has a strong resume to serve as the new Cornelius police chief and we expect he will bring depth to his new leadership position," said City Manager Rob Drake in a statement.

Roque said he knows Bennett well and approves of him taking the chief position. He described the new chief as "kind-hearted," noting in particular his "great sense of humor."

"I'm very excited," Roque said Tuesday. "In my opinion, he was the best fit to take this spot, and he'll do extremely well."

The Sheriff's Office has provided policing services in Cornelius since 2014, under a contract between the city and the county. The Cornelius Police Department, a municipal department prior to that, is effectively just the name under which sheriff's deputies assigned to Cornelius operate.

Roque accepted a promotion to serve as commander of the Washington County Sheriff's Office Services Division. He had been serving as police chief since 2016.

Like Bennett, Roque was a lieutenant at the Sheriff's Office when he was selected to take over from retiring Cornelius Police Chief Gene Moss.

Roque has been with the Sheriff's Office for nearly 16 years. As of this week, he has taken charge of a division that has a significantly higher percentage of civilian staff than others at the Sheriff's Office, something he said he thinks will mesh well with his own experience in the private sector — including as a manager at Intel — prior to becoming a sheriff's deputy.

While Roque said he is looking forward to his new role, he will miss the people he got to know in Cornelius.

"Obviously, it's bittersweet," Roque said. "I really enjoyed my time in Cornelius. It's a great community to work with. They were really responsive to our style of police services. The city staff is wonderful — they're amazing. … I'm going to miss them, obviously. But this was an opportunity."

Roque said he doesn't intend to disappear from Cornelius altogether, though he will now be working out of the headquarters in Hillsboro.

"I still am going to pop in from time to time," said Roque.

Cornelius is the only "minority-majority" city in Washington County, with just over 50 percent of the population identifying as Hispanic or Latino in the 2010 Census.

"I still see myself playing a fairly significant role in (working with) the underrepresented population, because I'm Latino and Spanish-speaking," Roque said. "It means something to me."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with quotes and additional information from Al Roque about his new position and his thoughts on serving Cornelius. Also, an earlier version of this story misidentified the police chief Roque succeeded in 2016. His name is Gene Moss. The story has been corrected.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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