Erik Hooks has announced his resignation from Governor Roy Cooper’s cabinet, ending a long career in the state’s public security.
Hooks, Secretary of State for State Department of Public Security, has held this role since Cooper’s first term began. He helped oversee North Carolina’s response to hurricanes, violence in understaffed prisons, mob demolitions of Confederate statues on public property, last summer’s riots and protests, and the COVID pandemic.
Hooks was appointed in January 2017, shortly after Cooper was sworn in for his first term. Hooks’ role includes serving as a homeland security advisor to the state. He spent 27 years of his 30-year career with the State Bureau of Investigation and eventually became the agency’s assistant director.
But Hooks and his department have received critical scrutiny in recent years. The controversies included a 10% increase Cooper expanded to hooks in 2019 following a veto on the state budget, along with salary increases for other state public security employees. As a government employee, Hooks’ retirement income is based on average earnings over the past 48 months. With the raise, Hooks made $ 179,403, $ 41,000 more than when he was appointed in 2017.
In recent years, DPS has had difficulty recruiting and retaining prison staff due to high turnover and what employees say are unsafe and unstable working conditions. Correctional officials make between $ 35,000 and $ 40,000 depending on where they work, but their supporters say that’s not enough to recruit the staff necessary to maintain a safe work environment.
During Hooks’ first year in office, October 12, 2017, an escape attempt in the Pasquotank Correctional Facility claimed the lives of four DPS Correction staff. Inmates at a prison sewing shop stabbed and hit guards with scissors and hammers. Prisoners set the facility on fire.
In addition to the deaths of the four guards, eight officers and four inmates were injured. Four inmates were charged with first degree murder.
Before that, in April 2017 at the Bertie Correctional Institution, a 29-year-old sergeant has died after an inmate hit her with a fire extinguisher.
“Of everything that goes on in the correctional facility, you’d think they’d be more focused on raising some of the ordinary employees who risk their lives every day,” said John Midgette, executive director of the NC Police Benevolent Association said about the announcement of Hooks’ raise.
The violence led Hooks and lawmakers to propose changes. In 2018, Hooks challenged a thorough review of the correction system and training. Hooks and his department continued to face allegations of lack of action in 2020 when rioters demolished public statues in the capital and other places throughout the state.
“Leadership is not given to a mob,” said Senate chief Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, at the time.
The Ministry of Public Security declined to definitively say who ordered the police to step back from defending the statues, but said it was in the interests of the officers’ safety. In 2015, a law passed by law prohibits the removal of statues from the Capitol.
During the COVID pandemic, Hooks and his department worked with DHHS to ensure enforcement Cooper’s emergency orders and mask requirements across the state.
“We really want to have a community-based police strategy where we encourage people in the community and companies to volunteer to abide by the law,” Hooks said at a press conference in August 2020. “But we also want to involve law enforcement with that they can educate people in public and in companies and then occasionally have to enforce the law. “
Hooks is Cooper’s second emergency manager to announce his retirement this spring. Long-time business continuity management director Mike Sprayberry announced his resignation in April. Last week, Hooks named William Ray, the current chief of staff for NC Emergency Management, as its new director. Cooper has not announced Hooks’ replacement, but his resignation is scheduled for August 1st.
“It has been the greatest honor of my professional life to lead the thousands of men and women who serve with honors in the various components of the Department of Public Safety,” Hooks said in a press release. “I am particularly proud of our work together to save and protect lives. It was exceptional to be able to help with unprecedented natural disasters, human tragedies, homeland security challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic with these dedicated professionals.