After proudly serving the community and the Hinesville Police Department for 41 years, Maj. Julian Hodges said he was ready to explore retirement and pursue a few hobbies.
"I plan to be on a deer stand by tomorrow morning," he said noting he is an avid hunter, especially during deer and turkey season. "I going to do a lot of hunting and some fishing and some work around the house. I don’t have any definite plans but I thought I would take a few months and let it settle in…and then if I get so bored that I need something to do...maybe then I’ll look for something to do."
Hodges official last day at work was Wednesday. It came after of more than four decades of service.
"He is probably the longest serving officer at HPD," HPD Police Chief George Stagmeier said.
Hodges first joined HPD in 1975 and said it was "kind of cool" that he got to work in the same department where his dad was also employed.
"My father was a police officer here," he said, noting his father was Julian V. Hodges and they only got to work together for one year. "He was here for about 13 years before he retired. We weren’t on the same shift but we were able to be on the same department at the same time which was kind of cool…I grew up around it and I knew all the officers….and I eventually found my way into it."
Hodges began as a patrolman. He was named assistant chief in 1999.
"And I worked the afternoon shift, primarily, for a couple of years," he said adding he has also worked in investigations and nearly every other duty at HPD. "At that time we didn’t have specializations…anything that came up…whatever officer was dispatched to or happened to be working at that time, worked the call…we always had detectives to handle the criminal investigations but everything else…from barking dog calls to traffic accident fatalities…anything like that the officers that were working on the shift at the time handled it."
When Hodges joined the force he said there were only 12 to 13 officers making up the department. But as the city and Fort Stewart grew so did HPD.
"We have 86 officers right now," he said.
Hodges said he always found the job interesting, which kept him engaged in all those years.
"There was a challenge in every situation…and most situations were challenging in different ways and the investigations were particularly challenging," he said.
Hodges credits the great officers who mentored him throughout the years.
"Harlan DeLoach was one," Hodges said. "Jimmy Downs, he was my supervisor for a number of years and kept me on the straight and narrow…Bobby Ryon…they were all mentors of mine throughout the years…they all made a difference in my career and gave me guidance."
"I learned a lot from (Major Thomas E.) Cribbs," Hodges continued. "He used to be on night shift and I was on the afternoon shift…at that time I was single and really didn’t have anything going on and we weren’t so worried about overtime so a lot of the time I would stay over and ride with him until two or three o’clock in the morning. Partly because I was interested and eager and part of it was because at that time there may be only one or two officers working nights and it was a good thing to have additional backup."
Hodges said that fingerprinting, for the most part, is the same now as it was back when he first started.
"But back then it was 35 millimeter film for the important stuff and even Polaroids," he said when comparing crime investigation then to now. "Of course now we have digital photography…DNA testing is probably the biggest change...the biggest advance that has helped investigations. But for the most part it is all leg work…talking to people."
"As an investigator I know he was well versed in photography," Stagmeier said applauding Hodges innovations throughout his career. "And he was one of the first crime scene technicians…he really studied the craft and did a professional job. At one point he took over as custodian of the evidence room. He put everything in order and made it run much more professionally."
Stagmeier said Hodges was instrumental in helping the department attain state certification. He added Hodges first recognized the importance of body cameras for officers nearly a decade ago.
"We had those eight or nine years ago when we first started," the Chief said adding nearly every officer that answers calls these days wears one. "We started out with about six. And they were kind of unique the way they were designed. They attached to our radios and we were able to video what went on once we turned them on. He recognized that was something good. We need to be transparent…and he stayed on top of that. Those experiences paved the way for his progression to being picked as the assistant chief. He has done many things and all very well. He worked diligently in making our department more progressive."
Hodges, who will be replaced as assistant chief by Capt. Bill Kirkendall, said he hopes his work for HPD will be remembered.
"I hope that people will remember that I tried to do a good job and that I did do a good job," Hodges said.