Don’t let the fact that she’s only 22 years old or only 5’5” fool you, Officer Kaitlynn Studebaker with the Senatobia Police Department doesn’t let those factors stand in her way when she wants to accomplish her goals. Including her latest “aim”: to be a sniper with Senatobia’s SWAT team.
A native of Sidney, Ohio, Studebaker moved to Southaven, Miss. when she was 10 years old with her mother, Kristina, and brother, Josh. She attended high school at Lewisburg where she played the clarinet in the marching band.
Studebaker thought she would attend college and continue to play in the band, but upon graduation from high school, her plans changed. She attended Desoto Center for EMT school.
“Something just didn’t feel right,” said Studebaker. “I enjoyed it, but I didn’t have that sense of fulfillment.”
Her next move was to join the National Guard, and she was quickly deployed to Kuwait in October 2019. She served in the capacity of military police while there and came home to Mississippi in September 2020.
“I really enjoyed my work there,” she explained. “So, I thought I’d enjoy the same work on the civilian side of things.”
Studebaker put in applications throughout DeSoto County and decided to put in an application with Senatobia as well.
It didn’t take Senatobia Police Chief Richard Chandler long to decide to hire her, and Studebaker became an officer with the department Nov. 1, 2020.
“She was very confident- a very determined young person who knew what she wanted in life.” said Chandler, as he reflected on his decision to hire Studebaker.
Consequent to being hired, Studebaker attended police academy at Mississippi Delta Community College in Moorhead, where she worked hard and was intent on succeeding. According to Chandler, she did.
“She excelled at academy, and she continues to perform her job at a very high level,” he stated.
Studebaker is currently the only female on the patrol unit with SPD, but she said she doesn’t mind because the department is like a family to her.
“I’d take a bullet for those guys, just like they would me,” she remarked.
Studebaker believes the fact that she’s a female has never held her back from any of her goals, despite law enforcement being a male-dominated field.
“There needs to be more women in law enforcement.” She observed, “With the way the world is now, especially with law enforcement, it’s hard to keep good people around. I think especially with being a female, it’s almost like you must work harder, but it’s good and important to have a female perspective in law enforcement. Although, I laugh sometimes about how I have to be more assertive to get my point across.”
Studebaker said there are unique situations where being a female police officer has its advantages.
“There are times where a female is needed. When you have domestic violence situations, rape victims, sex trafficking- the women or girls will naturally come to me before approaching a male officer,” she said.
In addition to her duties with Senatobia, Studebaker continues to serve with the National Guard, where she is on track to be promoted to sergeant.
On Sun., Aug. 29, 2021, Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast, flooding New Orleans and knocking out power in surrounding coastal communities. Studebaker was deployed to serve the residents and help where she could.
“For the first few days, we guarded the businesses,” she said. “They didn’t have power and we tried to prevent looting. After that, we helped to organize and serve food to the residents in need.”
The experience wasn’t all negative for Studebaker, however, and she managed to find the silver lining.
“I love Cajun food!” she declared. “The community was so nice, and they cooked for us. My favorite was the red beans and rice, and gumbo.”
Upon returning home from Louisiana on Sept. 24, Studebaker didn’t take a break and returned to her work with the police department with a newfound determination- to become a sniper.
According, to Studebaker, the whole thing came about while she and SWAT team leader Will Cunningham were on the gun range at Northwest Farm.
“Cunningham and I were at the range. I saw his rifle so I asked him, ‘Can I shoot it?’” she said. “He told me, ‘Sure go ahead.’”
Studebaker picked up the sniper rifle and aimed at a tiny target from 34-yards out. She took sight and hit it.
Cunningham told her, “Now do it, again.” She did, putting the second .308 caliber bullet directly through the hole of the first.
Cunningham noted the achievement, and her accomplishment came up in a later conversation with Chandler.
“Cunningham and I had a meeting to discuss SWAT and people who might be interested in being on the team,” noted Chandler. “He told me how great she was, a great shot, and it just made perfect sense.”
Being a good shot isn’t the only qualification factored into a decision on who makes the team, however.
“You have to be calm under pressure and adapt to quickly evolving situations.” Chandler explained. “She has both of those qualities.”
Studebaker said she was surprised to learn the news.
“I was just shocked. Excited, but absolutely shocked to learn the news.” She remarked, “My first thought was that there were plenty of other people. I mean there aren’t too many female snipers.”
Studebaker will be the second female sniper in the entire state of Mississippi following Starkville Police Department’s Stephanie Perkins who became a sniper in 2009.
When asked if she thinks she could be a role model to younger girls in the community, Studebaker takes the position seriously.
“Yes,” she said. “I want people to know, if you work hard enough, you can achieve your goals. When people say you can’t do it, keep pushing.”
She explained throughout the many goals she’d set her sights on achieving, she’d faced adversity.
“With EMT school, they told me I couldn’t do it. With military, they told me I couldn’t do it. With police academy, some thought I couldn’t do it,” she said.
Despite the naysayers, Studebaker persevered through it all.
“My main message to people is to keep pushing. Prove them wrong,” she said.
Despite continued financial support from public funds available to the department from the City of Senatobia and the State of Mississippi, the police department always welcomes donations from the community to support special training, gear, equipment, and projects to further serve Senatobia.
Donations to support training for officers such as Studebaker can be made directly to Senatobia Police Department, 131 N Front Street, Senatobia, MS 38668. Call 662-562-5642, to learn more information on how to support ongoing efforts of the department.