Nikki Gillard/MPD Photos
From Becky Holland, email@example.com
MARSHALL – In 1845, the first women to be hired by the New York City Police Department were called ‘matrons.’
Today, it seems the police organizational attitudes toward women in the police force have changed. Yet, since 2004, women accounted for less than 15 percent of all sworn law enforcement roles in larger agencies, and the percentage of sworn female officers in small agencies seems even lower.
Currently in Marshall, there are four sworn female police officers. Sgt. Sarah Hodges, Crime Scene Investigator Nikki Gillard and Officers Courtney Wells and Jessica Chiles aren’t wallflowers. Each one has earned numerous accolades for their work in fulfilling the mission statement of the Marshall Police Department – putting the community first.
Questions were posed to each of the officers in regards to being a female in a male-dominated career. This will be a first in a series of three articles. First in the spotlight is Sgt. Sarah Hodges.
Sgt. Sarah Hodges, 33, grew up in Elysian Fields. She graduated from Elysian Fields High School, received her bachelor of arts in criminal justice from Stephen F. Austin State University, and graduated from the East Texas Police Academy in Kilgore.
Hodges became a patrol officer in 2006 with the Marshall Police Department. “During this time I also began taking courses in the many different areas of crime scene investigation. I also assisted in processing crime scenes under the direct supervision of the person, who was the crime scene investigator at that time, Lt. Lewis,” Hodges said. “In 2010, I was moved from patrol to crime scene investigations. I remained in that position until being promoted to Sergeant, in October 2015.I then returned to patrol where I am currently a Patrol Sergeant.”
“Originally, I planned to pursue a career as a forensic pathologist. I was a sophomore at S.F.A. when I worked for Dr. Palmer, who was the former pathologist at GSMC-Marshall, during summer break. Dr. Palmer performed an autopsy on an infant in which foul play was involved,” she explained, “Two officers from the Marshall Police Department were in attendance, during the autopsy. One of the officers was a crime scene investigator. After speaking with him, and learning of the different aspects of crime scene investigation, I decided to change career paths and study criminal justice in order to become a crime scene investigator.”
When asked about how her family responded to her entering law enforcement, Hodges thought for a moment. “My family has always been very supportive of my career decision and has always been there to me in any way possible,” she said.
As per being a woman in a male-dominated field, Hodges said, “There are challenges that I have faced and continue to face, however everyone works more as a team. I also grew up in a family being one of few girls and also have an older brother; therefore it has never been a major issue for me.”
When asked if there were any different qualities or traits that a woman needs to have to make it as a police officer than a man needs, Hodges’ answer proved to be well-thought out. “Everyone has a different and unique set of qualities which can make them good police officers and allow them to be successful in law enforcement,” she said. “I do not believe that just because you are a male police officer, you are automatically better qualified than your female counterpart or vice versa. That is one of the many advantages that a person has concerning law enforcement. There are many different aspects of law enforcement in which a person can enjoy and thrive at.”
Hodges says that her career has been very beneficial to her growth as an officer. “Because I began as an entry-level patrol officer to a crime scene investigator and now a patrol sergeant, I have been able to experience the patrol division as well as the criminal investigation division,” Hodges said. “I have a better understanding of what goes on after a report is taken, filed, and processed through either the municipal court system or the district court system. I have gained the experience and working knowledge in which I can now use, as a patrol sergeant, in order to better assist the officers on my shift and pass on my knowledge to them for future use.”
In offering advice to women who are considering becoming a police officer, Hodges said, “Go for it.”
“Being a female does not limit you from becoming a police officer or from being a good police officer,” she said.
Hodges concluded by saying this about police officers, “We are human, just like everyone else,” she said. “We make mistakes, we are not perfect. Our main mission is not to arrest people or write tickets. Police officers are here to help people and their communities.”
Editor’s Note – Profiles on the remaining female officers at MPD will be published as answers are returned. Our hope is to talk to women with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office as well.