Twenty-five-year-old Kate Hodges is following in the footsteps of her father, and has become a local hero in a very short amount of time.
Hodges grew up in Ludowici, Georgia, and attended Georgia Southern University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology. After graduating in 2020, she attended the Savannah Technical College Peace Officer Academy, and she earned her Georgia POST certification. She then began working at the Georgia Southern University Police Department. She will graduate in December with her Master of Science in Criminology.
Hodges is certified through the Law Enforcement Bicycle Association as a Class A Police Bike Patrol Officer, and has worked at GSU in the Bike Patrol Division, as well as serving in the Uniformed Patrol Division. She was recently promoted to Patrol Corporal.
She is the daughter of Angelis and Kevin Hodges, and her father is a former Georgia State Patrol officer. Hodges says that while she was growing up, she always saw herself becoming a police officer.
“As a child, I watched my dad, who was a Georgia State trooper, enjoy his time and moments that he had in law enforcement. I believe it strongly impacted my decision in becoming a public servant,” she said.
Being a woman in law enforcement is a challenge, as it’s a male-dominated field. But Hodges says that being a female in the field has its advantages.
“Female officers must work extremely hard to gain the same level of respect that men are given despite performing the same duties. I believe women have a calming effect that defuses potentially explosive situations, and are extremely useful when dealing with female victims,” she said.
As a student at Georgia Southern, Hodges says she saw the difference that law enforcement makes in the daily lives of students.
“I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology but still had the desire to become a law enforcement officer. So after graduation, I enrolled in the Peace Officer academy, where I graduated at the top of my class. I never considered another agency, because Georgia Southern is home and I have a special commitment to the university,” she said.
Hodges enjoys working with the college students, and says the students are in a phase of their lives where “they are becoming young adults.”
“I hope that I can influence them in positive ways to always make wise decisions and remain safe throughout their enrollment,” she said.
Camaraderie among her peers is what Hodges says she enjoys the most about her job, as well as the sense of accomplishment she gets from helping others.
“Law enforcement is certainly one of the most rewarding jobs,” she said.
But she says the job does have its drawbacks.
“I’m not always able to assist others as much as I would like in every situation or encounter. Law enforcement officers are human and encounter very tragic and often life-threatening situations that don’t always end up well,” she said.
Hodges was called to step up on April 8 of last year, when her actions saved a 21-year-old student from drowning in a pond on campus. As a result, she was named Bulloch County Public Safety Officer of the Year. She was honored during a special banquet in November 2022.
“I’m honored,” Hodges said afterward. “I mean I’m in a room full of heroes, and just to be named among all these people, I’m just honored, and I love what I do and I love working for Georgia Southern, and Bulloch County.”
On the night of April 8, 2022, Hodges and fellow GSU police officer Ryan McBride were each on parole in their vehicles, and each observed a Chevrolet Trailblazer with the engine running in the Paulson Stadium parking lot.
After a period of time had passed, both officers noticed that the vehicle remained in the lot. Hodges approached the vehicle, and found that the passengers inside were under the influence and were in no condition to drive. Hodges made arrangements for them to get home with an off-duty officer.
She then went on to deal with another incident, but soon saw the Trailblazer again. The vehicle traveled some distance before running a stop sign and crossing Forest Drive, going straight into the pond, which had been excavated for repairs to the dam, making the water much deeper than it would have been normally. At the middle of the pond, the vehicle began to sink.
Knowing the intoxicated individuals were still inside the vehicle, Hodges spoke to them, and the passenger was able to get out safely. But the driver was unable to do so. Hodges jumped in to rescue the driver, swimming to safety at the pond’s edge.
“I was able to talk both occupants out of the windows of the vehicle before it completely submerged; however, the driver struggled to stay afloat. Once I observed the individual struggling to stay above water, I quickly removed my gear and swam into the pond to rescue her. I then grabbed onto the female and swam her back to safety,” Hodges said.
Georgia Southern Chief of Police Clay Gracen called Hodges a “natural leader, calm under pressure,” and someone who has a “tremendous work ethic.”
“Officer Hodges’ quick actions that night not only saved the life of a 21-year-old student but also prevented a parent’s worst nightmare,” Gracen wrote in his nomination of her for Officer of the Year. “Her disregard for her own safety was not for glory or recognition; it is a reflection of her true character.”
Hodges said on that night, in the moment, she didn’t have to think — she was just doing her job.
“I saw someone in trouble, and my only thought was to act. I believe in stressful situations, officers must rely on their training and instinct,” she said.
Regarding being named Bulloch County Public Safety Officer of the Year, Hodges said she was shocked.
“I believed that what I did was part of my duties to this university and to my department. I was very humbled, and I truly recognize that there are many others that were also deserving of the same award. It made me feel honored that someone recognized me for something that any other officer in my position would have done and I am forever grateful that I saved someone’s life,” she said.
Hodges looks to those around her each day to drive her to be better on the job. Her mentors on the job are Chief Laura McCullough, and Emergency Management Director Erick Riner.
“Chief and Erick motivate me to be better every single day. I truly look up to them both,” she said. “I believe they are two of the most knowledgeable and impactful people in our community.
She also gives much credit to her co-workers and supervisors, who she says have always been supportive.
“I learn something from each person that I work with each day. All of my team has assisted me in becoming a better officer, and for that I am grateful for each and every one on my team,” she said.
But her first mentors and heroes were her parents.
“My parents have always pushed me to be the best version of myself. They are extremely hard workers and have achieved so much. My parents spent and invested a lot of time in my academics, activities and most of all, have taught me valuable life lessons. My parents are very positive people and have always built me up to become the person that I am and all my internal qualities. I strive to be as successful as them and to always do my best no matter the career path,” Hodges said.
Hodges plans, after graduation, to further her state POST training, and hopes to one day become an instructor. She says in five to 10 years, she hopes to be a part-time college instructor, and she hopes to continue working for the GSU Police Department “in a role that will allow me to continue to serve my community, as well as hopefully continue the growth of the department and the new officers within the department.”
As for being selected as this year’s Readers Choice Best Local Hero, Hodges says it’s an honor.
“I feel honored to know that the people in my community view me as someone that has made a difference. I want to thank everyone that has provided me with kind words, recognition and support during my time as an officer,” she said. “My wish is to continue to make a difference and to hopefully instill great qualities in new incoming officers.”