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After conducting a national search for a new police chief, Bloomington city leaders said Monday that they had narrowed their choice to two local law enforcement officials.

The finalists are Brooklyn Park Deputy Chief Mark Bruley and Booker Hodges, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. City leaders plan to make one of them an offer following interviews on Thursday and Friday. The new chief is expected to start in March.

Assistant Public Safety Commissioner Booker Hodges.
Assistant Public Safety Commissioner Booker Hodges.

Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune

Bloomington is not alone in looking for a new chief. Two other west metro cities, Golden Valley — which conducted an international search — and Brooklyn Center also plan to name police chiefs soon.

"I feel there is no better time or place to do this work than now at the city of Bloomington," Bruley said Monday.

Hodges would be the city's first Black chief if selected, but he said Monday: "I don't think that should be the qualifying factor for someone to get a job."

Bruley has been with the Brooklyn Park Police Department since 1995, serving as a precinct commander and, since 2014, as deputy chief in charge of investigations. Hodges served as Prior Lake's first Black officer and chief before joining the Department of Public Safety in 2019.

Despite the national search, all of Bloomington's six semifinalists, half of them people of color, were from Minnesota. "If I had seen something in any of those national candidates that really made me sit up … I would have had somebody in the pool," said City Manager Jamie Verbrugge.

Brooklyn Park Deputy Police Chief Mark Bruley.
Brooklyn Park Deputy Police Chief Mark Bruley.

Brooklyn Park Police Department.

Golden Valley has received applications from Nigeria, Mexico and the Philippines, but city officials said its six semifinalists are either from the region or out of state. Three of them are Black and one is a woman. Like Bloomington, Golden Valley has never had a person of color lead the police department.

Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris said the city decided to expand its search for a police chief, who historically has come from the department or the metro area, because of diversity and competition.

"If we want to get the best quality police chief out there, we need to cast that wide net," he said. "We shouldn't restrict ourselves when trying to look at the best talents regionally … or from a national perspective or even internationally."

To conduct its search, Golden Valley hired El Paso, Texas-based America's Best Strategic Security Group, under a contract for $30,000. Bloomington signed a $20,000 contract with St. Louis Park firm Hue Life.

Brooklyn Center recently announced its own plans to permanently fill the vacancy opened when Police Chief Tim Gannon resigned last year after Daunte Wright's killing by police sparked protests and calls for reform. The city signed a $35,000 contract with Twin Cities-based DRI Consulting for its search. Applications are expected to open this week, and the city hopes to hire a chief this spring.

A third of Brooklyn Center's officers resigned after the city was rocked by the fatal shooting of Wright by police officer Kimberly Potter, who resigned from the department and was found guilty of manslaughter in the case in December. That makes hiring a chief more challenging but it won't keep people away, said John Fennig, who is helping lead the search for DRI.

Fennig said that DRI long has found police and fire chiefs for dozens of Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, and he was optimistic Brooklyn Center will get quality candidates. His search team of psychologists and law enforcement consultants includes Michael Jordan, former state public safety commissioner and Minneapolis civil rights director.

DRI has held focus groups with police department staffers and city leaders, and will seek input from activists, residents and even commuters who pass through the city. Virtual listening sessions will be held Feb. 7 and 10, and an online survey for the public is open through Feb. 15.

"Lots of voices will be at the table," Fennig said. "They are driving the process. We are asking them for names."

Jesus Campa, a former police chief who leads the El Paso search firm hired by Golden Valley, said there were fewer applicants than usual, owing to early retirements and officer vacancies. That has driven up the demand for international searches, he said.

"Law enforcement is probably at its most crucial state," Campa said. "If you look across the nation … there's approximately 111 open police chief positions available right now."

Among the Golden Valley candidates is interim Chief Scott Nadeau, who came out of retirement last year at age 55 to lead the department.

The Bloomington Police Department has 123 authorized officers and a total staff of 157. Deputy Chief Mike Hartley was tapped to temporarily fill the chief's job after Jeff Potts stepped down last year to become executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

"There are only three positions in the city structure where the people are referred to by their title and not their name. That's mayor, fire chief and police chief," Verbrugge said. "This position is different because of the level of visibility and scrutiny."