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The City of Bloomington welcomed Dr. Booker T. Hodges to the city's top law enforcement job during a public celebration Monday night.

The event drew a crowd to Bloomington's Civic Plaza to witness the swearing-in of Hodges, the city's first Black police chief.

The city hired Hodges to lead the 157-member department after a nationwide search. He replaces Mike Hartley, the city's former interim police chief, who retired last month. 

Hodges formerly served as sergeant with the Dakota County Sheriff's Office, Undersheriff with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, Police Chief in Prior Lake and, most recently, as Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. 

During the ceremony Monday, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington reflected on Hodges' community impact.

"He's a man of integrity, a man of courage and a man of honor," Harrington said.

He also commended his leadership during the riots following the murder of George Floyd, though subsequent after-action reports have criticized state and local law enforcement leadership during the civil unrest. 

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Hodges took the podium to speak about the challenges he faced on his path to law enforcement, including the domestic violence-related death of his mother when he was 12 years old, and the academic suspension he faced in college while reading at a fourth-grade level.

"Having people around me who believed in me helped me believe in humanity," Hodges said, adding he joined law enforcement after time working as a community activist. 

In the wake of Floyd's death, Hodges wrote a blog post addressing the issue of racism within law enforcement and how it metes out justice, noting the first step to addressing it is admitting there's a problem, and calls for law enforcement to take the lead on the issue.

The Bloomington Police Department is the fifth-largest municipal law enforcement agency in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training. 

The department is authorized to employ up to 123 sworn officers, according to the city. 

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