Soon after University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead in her apartment in May 2010, and her ex-boyfriend George Huguely V was charged in her death, U-Va. police officer Angela Tabler received a new assignment.
Instead of writing parking tickets and directing traffic, Tabler was given the full-time job of educating students, faculty and staff about domestic and dating violence, alcohol abuse and how the university police can help when they or someone they know is in trouble.
Tabler also is in charge of assisting students who are the victims of
crime by explaining their options, connecting them with resources, helping them obtain protective orders, holding their hands through the often intimidating court process and frequently calling to check in.
“I look at the community a little differently now,” Tabler said. “People will say to me, ‘Are you the same officer?’ I’m not.”
Tabler’s new job is one of many changes at U-Va. prompted by Love’s death. The university also sponsored a “Day of Dialogue” in September 2010 to discuss dating violence, safety and changes needed in campus culture.
Several student leaders say Love’s death and other incidents at U-Va. have prompted frank talks between friends about tough issues like dating violence, alcoholism and mental health issues.
“My generation, my age is still plagued by that feeling of being invincible,” said Pemberton Heath, 21, a fourth year student from North Carolina who helps to lead ongoing organized discussions between students, faculty and staff about improving U-Va.’s culture. “I think the events of spring 2010 reminded us of the fragility of life.”
The number of those conversations has likely increased this week, as Huguely appeared in a Charlottesville courtroom Monday for what is expected to be a two-week trial.
Tabler now fields dozens of calls — some in the middle of the night — from students worried about a friend or worried about themselves. She also has students referred to her from other departments on campus.
“There has been a jump in calls,” she said. “We get a lot of people who call and say, ‘I’m not sure if this is something. . .’ We would rather them call and not need us than to not call.”
To Tabler, the increase in calls means that the training sessions and outreach efforts are working. She and others have provided training at new student orientation, handed out fliers at numerous events, visited sorority and fraternity houses and met with residence hall assistants, among a list of other things. Last year she estimates the police department reached 18,600 people.
The message at many of these events: Don’t stand by and do nothing if you or someone you know is in any sort of trouble. It’s a message that’s repeated “over and over and over again,” Tabler said. “We want them to know that it’s okay to talk to the police.”
For ongoing coverage of Huguely’s case this week, follow Jenna on Twitter (@wpjenna) and the Post’s Crime Scene blog. Here’s some of our previous coverage: