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Rochester Police Department waves goodbye to force’s first minority officer

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Officer Hwat Lou in 1992

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - After over 28 years on the force, Officer Hwat Lou is retiring.

"It doesn't seem like I've been here 28 years," said the Cambodian native.

Even on a hot July day, officers came to the government center to wish Officer Hwat Lou a happy retirement and celebrate his career.

"I can say I respect a lot of people in this world but Hwat Lou, you are right at the top," said Captain John Sherwin.

Sherwin remembers a vehicle pursuit where Lou diffused a hostile situation.

"You're calming him down. By the time he was in the car, he was apologizing to you and everything was handled," the captain recalls. "I remember saying 'I want to work with that guy.'"

Lou served as an important link between the Asian community and the police department. Mayor Kim Norton believes this diversity is part of making the department better.

"We want the department to reflect our community so that we can have the best policing possible," the mayor said. "We think that's part of the answer."

Being an officer's wife can be stressful, but Lang Lou is proud of her husband.

"I support him. He enjoys what he does. I respect that," she said. "I'm happy for him. We're happy that he does what he loves to do."

As a teenager, Hwat Lou fled Cambodia as a refugee and landed in Saint Paul. He worked there as a parking enforcement officer and security guard before moving to Rochester.

"Thank you for the opportunity that was given to me 28 years ago," said the retiring officer.

Since moving from Saint Paul, Officer Lou has served the Rochester community for over 28 years. He's happy to call it home.

"This is my first home here in Rochester. I'm going to stick around," said Lou, whose children attend school in town.

He leaves officers with this advice.

"Just focus on your task as a police officer and your image," Lou advises. "You're trying to represent yourself and your police department."

A police department that is thankful for Lou's service.

"Every time I went on a call with Lou, I knew it was going to be handle well, people were going to be treated with respect and we were going to be safe," said Sherwin.

Lou and his family say he hopes to relax and spend more time with family now that he's retired.

Officer Lou along with Officer Jeffery Stobbs saved a priest's life during a DWI crash in 2016, earning a lifesaving award.

Alex Tejada

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