Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks on Wednesday announced his plans to retire from state service on August 1. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Hooks on January 5, 2017, to serve as secretary of the Department of Public Safety and as the State Homeland Security advisor.

Hooks has more than 30 years of law enforcement and public safety experience. He served 27 years with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation in various leadership capacities, rising to the rank of assistant director in 2005 before taking on the role of Public Safety secretary.

“Thanks to the leadership of Erik Hooks, North Carolina is a safer, more prepared state,” Cooper said. “Under Secretary Hooks, the Department of Public Safety has put the safety of North Carolinians first, working to combat crime, respond to emergencies, including a once in a generation pandemic, attract and retain quality staff and address inequities in the justice system. I’ve been fortunate to know Secretary Hooks for more than two decades and while his leadership and counsel will be missed, I congratulate him on a well-deserved retirement.”

Since 2017, Hooks has led the state’s largest department, comprised of approximately 27,000 sworn enforcement and civilian employees, along with nearly 12,000 North Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen. In his role as the department head, Hooks is the sole representative on the governor’s cabinet for the state’s law enforcement, emergency management and corrections responsibilities. 

“It has been the highest honor of my professional life to lead the thousands of men and women who serve with distinction in the various components of the Department of Public Safety,” Hooks said. “I am particularly proud of our work together to save and protect lives. Serving with these dedicated professionals through unprecedented natural disasters, human tragedies, homeland security challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been extraordinary.

“I am proud to report the Department of Public Safety remains strong with outstanding leaders in Alcohol Law Enforcement, State Capitol Police, State Highway Patrol, Emergency Management, National Guard, Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, Samarcand Training Academy, Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, and State Bureau of Investigation; as well as our major support divisions comprised of the Administration Division and the General Counsel’s Office,” he added.

Hooks has been responsible for coordinating the state’s homeland security, counterterrorism, and emergency management functions to ensure comprehensive and cohesive prevention, preparedness, protection, mitigation, response and recovery from emergencies, disasters, and acts or threats of terrorism. His extensive public safety background has allowed him to leverage his relationships with diverse and long-standing partners to enhance safety and security for the protection of lives and critical infrastructure within the state. As the State Administrative Agent, Hooks has administered federal grant funds to state, local and tribal entities across North Carolina to better position them to prepare for and respond to all natural and manmade hazards.

As Public Safety secretary, Hooks has guided the work of several commissions and advisory groups. He served as the chair of the North Carolina State Emergency Response Commission and led the State Emergency Response Team through North Carolina’s “storm of record,” Hurricane Florence, in 2018. Hooks also chaired the State Reentry Council Collaborative and the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECK) Working Group. The SAECK Working Group was charged with developing a strategic statewide plan for preserving, tracking and testing sexual assault evidence collection kits. The working group was also charged with determining the testing priority of previously untested sexual assault evidence collection kits in law enforcement custody.

Hooks has also served on the Governor’s Crime Commission, the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, and the North Carolina Task Force for Safer Schools.

A native of Spring Lake, Hooks is a North Carolina State University graduate. He holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science with a concentration in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Liberal Studies with a focus on Organizational Management and Research. He is also a graduate of the Administrative Officers Management Program at N.C. State University. Additionally, Hooks successfully completed the FBI National Executive Institute, and the Commandant’s National Security Program at the U.S. Army War College. Secretary He is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Governors Homeland Security Advisors Council, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the North Carolina Police Executive’s Association.

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