From Style Weekly:
They found her in a Wal-Mart parking lot, her dress torn, with bruises on her neck. It’s just before dusk May 6, during what was previously an uneventful shift, when the call comes across the police radio. Henrico County police officer Karen Furgurson turns down the country music whispering out of the stereo speakers and picks up the receiver. She makes a quick mobile-to-mobile phone call to another cop patrolling the area to coordinate a response.
Furgurson, a diminutive, red-haired mother of three, graduated from the police academy in March 2010. She’s been working as “road cop”— police parlance for uniformed patrol officer — just long enough to no longer be considered a rookie. Winding through a west Henrico neighborhood, she checks the details of the incident while they appear on the screen of her laptop, which is mounted to the dash of her cruiser. The call has come through tentatively as a “domestic,” and she’ll take the lead.
Major crime is down in Henrico — aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, burglary and the like — and has been declining during the last 20 years. Violent crime and homicides in Richmond region, long tagged as one of the most violent cities in the country, have been declining significantly in the last decade. New approaches in community policing and computerized data mining have enabled police to track and target high-crime areas and tactically distribute resources more effectively.
But domestic violence continues to flummox police departments locally — and across the state. Traditionally police have largely taken a hands-off approach when it comes to 911 calls for domestic incidents, writing them off as unpreventable crimes of passion. In the last few years, however, many police departments such as Henrico’s had an epiphany: Perhaps there is a tactical approach to handling domestics?
The approach requires officers to become part law-enforcement officers, part social workers. The real effort starts on the front end, with patrol officers such as Furgurson.
During her May 6 shift, a 911 call comes from a nearby Wal-Mart. The caller is a young woman, a mother of two. The woman tells the dispatcher that she fled her nearby apartment after an argument with her husband turned violent.
When Furgurson arrives she pulls her white police sedan into the parking lot behind a second squad car. Two other patrol officers are here, but they’ve waited, along with the alleged victim, who sits in a police cruiser, for Furgurson to begin the interview. After discussing the call with them briefly, she ambles over to the passenger side of the car and introduces herself to the olive-skinned woman slunk into the front seat.
Through tears, the woman gives her account of the past few hours. She’s a graduate student at a local university. Her dress, black with gold trim, is ripped at the shoulder. On her neck is a series of jagged purple streaks that disappear behind her thick, shoulder-length hair…