BANGOR, Maine — Sgt. James “Chip” Hodges, who retired from the Bangor Police Department on Thursday after 31 years, said several years ago that he was indeed a chip off the old block.
The veteran lawman said something like, “James Hodges is my father,” when asked about his nickname.
Hodges started his three decades of community service as a part-time officer in both Hampden and Brewer and as a full-time public safety dispatcher in Brewer.
He joined Bangor’s police force in 1980.
“Over the years he has been involved, in one way or another, in almost all aspects of the department,” Sgt. Paul Edwards, the department’s spokesman, said in a statement about Hodges’ retirement.
Hodges said Friday there are several moments that immediately come to mind when he thinks back over the last three decades, but none as poignant as when a man grabbed his .38 Special and threatened his life.
“I got into a fight with a guy who ended up getting ahold of my gun and putting it to my head,” Hodges recalled.
Fellow Officer Gardner Cobb heard the commotion on his radio, came running and was able to get the police revolver away from the man after he took off running, said Hodges, who “ended up with a little gouge in my forehead.”
After events like that, “you start to understand your mortality,” the veteran officer said.
Hodges was a young patrolman at the time, in the mid-1980s, and said he never forgot the lessons learned that day.
He went on to serve in a variety of capacities at Bangor Police Department.
“During his early years he did as all young police officers do — work the streets at all hours of the day and night,” Edwards said. “In the mid-1980s his interest in photography brought him to the attention of the department administrators, who were looking for a new identification officer (the precursor to today’s ‘CSI’).”
Hodges got the job.
“Chip moved into that position and proceeded to hone his skills by attending advanced training in crime scene investigation, fingerprint examination, and photography in locations such as the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. and the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, Ontario,” Edwards said.
As the department’s identification officer, a position he held for nine years, Hodges handled crime scenes — everything from simple household burglaries to complex multiple homicides. He also maintained criminal records and fingerprint files and operated the department’s photographic darkroom.
“This type of work naturally takes a toll on a person,” Edwards said, adding, however, that Hodges has balanced his life “with the occasional insertion of humor.”
Hodges was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1994 and went back to the patrol division, working the evening shift, before transferring in 1998 to a position overseeing the parking enforcement division.
“Eventually, he would affectionately become known as the ‘Parking Czar,’” Edwards said.
Hodges next became a supervisor for the criminal investigation division and the Bangor International Airport police detachment. He returned to his roots in the patrol division in 2011.
“Chip always emphasized fairness and respect in his law enforcement career,” Edwards said. “He felt that everyone deserved to have their concerns heard, and he had a personal goal that everyone deserved at least five minutes of his time.”
Noting that “I’m not a big guy,” Hodges said he often tried to find a nonviolent way to deal with situations involving arrests.
“I tried to talk people into their handcuffs instead of forcing them into their handcuffs,” he jokingly said.
Hodges, who lives in Otis with his wife of 35 years, Sheila, said he plans on enjoying the summer listening to jazz, possibly visiting his son, Austin, a jazz percussionist in New York, and working around his home.
Since Thursday was the last time he put on his blue police uniform, the reality that he is retired “hasn’t had time to sink in yet,” he said.