Mercer criminal justice degree helps alumnus advance career in law enforcement 

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a man wearing a badge pets a dog
Capt. Michael Hobgood and pup Ronin. Photo courtesy Betsy Merchant

Mercer University alumnus Michael Hobgood was drawn to a career in law enforcement as a senior in high school. 

“It was a job that I felt really spoke to me because it allowed me to be able to help people and to be able to make the world a safer place,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to make a difference.” 

He already was working for the local police department when he enrolled at Mercer’s newly opened Henry County Regional Academic Center. There, he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice that would help propel his career forward. 

Hobgood was promoted to sergeant shortly before he graduated from the College of Professional Advancement in 2008. In that role, he oversaw investigations and later the special victims unit, which investigates crimes against women and children. He also facilitated a Violence Against Women Act grant for the department.

a man in a suit stands behind a podium
Capt. Michael Hobgood. Photo courtesy Leigh Ann Hobgood

“One thing that I loved about Mercer was that all the instructors there were currently in their field. They were working during the day in their field and then they were teaching at night,” Hobgood said. “That brought so much more topical, real-time education into the classroom and gave me a passion to learn more. … It was totally applicable to what I was doing every day, and it brought a lot more realism into the classroom.” 

In 2021, he earned his Master of Public Safety Administration through Georgia Law Enforcement Command College at Columbus State University. Then, in 2022, he was promoted to captain and named director of Henry County Animal Care and Control when the shelter moved under the police department. 

In this role, he oversees 20 employees and manages a budget of more than $1.7 million. He is responsible for the care of hundreds of animals that pass through animal control each year. He oversees public outreach and education efforts and collaborates with nonprofit and rescue groups. 

“You have a finite number of kennels, but you have an infinite number of animals that are constantly coming into the shelter,” he said.  

Under his direction, the animal shelter has undergone many internal remodeling projects, added a mural, and improved the main kennel area with better insulation, fans and a new air conditioning unit. 

In addition, Hobgood oversaw the addition of a barn and yard to house a wide range of livestock that animal control is often asked to care for. The shelter recently housed five horses, two pigs and a mammoth donkey as evidence in cruelty cases, he said. 

He also has received approval to hire an in-house veterinarian that will allow the shelter to provide general health care, vaccines and sterilization on site.  

A big part of his job is public outreach and education. The shelter often hosts adoption events on-site and at local parks, where rabies and microchipping services also are provided. In addition, the shelter is getting an adoption trailer that will allow it to not only bring more dogs but start bringing cats, which need to be in kennels to avoid escape, he said. 

Hobgood said he’s hoping to get future funding for a new and bigger shelter to help better serve the needs of animals in Henry County. 

 

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