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December 20, 2017

Q&A: New town officer from a family of cops

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“My mom just structured me in such a way that I could see myself pursuing this career,” says rookie Warrenton Police Officer Chai Fuller.
I knew what I was getting myself into in terms of knowing this job is dangerous. You kind of come to terms with it.
Chai Fuller
• Age: 24

• Home: Gainesville

• Work: Warrenton police officer; July-present; legal advocate, Women’s Resource Center, Radford, June 2016-June 2017.

• Salary: $44,641 per year.

• Family: Mother Chairla Price; one sister, two brothers

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, criminal justice, Radford University, 2016; Brentsville District High School, 2012

• Hobbies: Dancing, shopping
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Gainesville woman almost comes to police work naturally.

Her mother serves as a Fairfax sheriff’s deputy and her godparents work for the FBI.

“I grew up in a law enforcement family,” Warrenton Police Officer Chai (pronounced Shay) Fuller says. “My mom just structured me in such a way that I could see myself pursuing this career.”

Ms. Fuller, who received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Radford University in 2016, joined the department in July.

Recently, the rookie patrol officer completed 20 weeks of training — four, 10-hour days per week — at the Skyline Criminal Justice Academy in Middletown. Distinguishing herself, Ms. Fuller, a high school gymnast and basketball player, earned the academy’s female physical fitness award.

New Warrenton officers get additional instruction through the police department’s 57-day, on-the-job training program.

Sgt. Thomas Kamerer has been providing Ms. Fuller that training.

Learning how to “prioritize” service calls, “time management,” producing reports “in a timely fashion” and “learning the streets” represent some of the biggest challenges for new officers, Sgt. Kamerer says.

But by the end of the training regimen, Officer Fuller “should be able to know how to handle pretty much every call she goes to,” the sergeant says. “She’s very bright. So she’s going to have it figured out quicker than that.”

Ms. Fuller, 24, has little doubt about the importance of police work.

“To serve and protect our community — what’s a better position to hold, where you engage with the community as well as know that you’re the first responder if they need help?”

The department has 27 sworn officers, with Ms. Fuller as the only female among them.

During his 15 years with the department, Sgt. Kamerer estimates it has employed about eight female officers.

Before taking the Warrenton job, Ms. Fuller worked for a year as a legal advocate with the Women’s Resource Center in Radford. She also had two internships — one with the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office, the other with the Radford City Police Department.

• When you got to college did you know you wanted to be a police officer?
I entered the criminal justice program at Radford (University) to see what was all there. I learned about all different career opportunities with law enforcement there, and it geared me toward wanting to be a police officer.

• What’s it like to be the department’s only female officer?
I like it. I wouldn’t say it’s different, because the (police training) academy is kind of the same thing. You’re around men. You get along with them. I don’t fear asking them anything, because it’s a family-oriented place.

• Do you feel the officers treat you differently because you’re a woman?
Absolutely not. I am one of the brothers. It’s a brotherhood here.

• How’s the job going so far?
I’ve been on patrol for probably a week. It’s going really good. I’ve been learning (Virginia’s criminal and traffic) codes, learning the street, getting to know everybody in town.

• What do like most about the job?
Meeting everyone — through the department, through the courts and just the town in general — talking to anybody. If I can talk to you, I’m happy.

• What’s the hardest part of the job?
Putting everything together — the whole process — start to finish, putting it down on paper and making sure you do what’s right.

• Police officers put themselves in harm’s way. Does that concern you?
I knew what I was getting myself into in terms of knowing this job is dangerous. You kind of come to terms with it. Of course, you’re always going to be scared. If you aren’t scared, there’s a problem.

• What does that mean?
You should be scared for your life, constantly alert. That’s something you learn.

• What’s the best advice you have received and from whom?
Keep your head on a swivel and watch their hands. Tunnel vision will kill you. Every law enforcement officer will tell you that.

• Have you ever thought about a safer line of work?
No. This job is different every day. It keeps you on your toes and it keeps you interested. I’m not going to be bored. The fact that I can bounce around and do whatever — answer this, go to that. It’s exciting. That’s what keeps you motivated.

• You got the female fitness award at the training academy. What did you do to get it?
There are three parts — a one-mile run, an obstacle course and kind of like a gym workout. I got (the award) for my combined scores.

• What did you have the most fun doing at the training academy?
Driving week. You got to drive fast in patrol cars. We had to learn how to drive in any situation — curves, turns; they threw everything at us. It was a fun time. You could wreck and not get in trouble. Nobody wrecked, but it was fun.

• What do you want to be doing in five years?
I definitely want to be a detective. You get to focus more. There’s always different avenues to find answers. Being a detective, you get to nitpick for details.

• Do you think you’d like to become a police chief someday?
I could see myself doing that. But, you work your way up. And I plan to work my way up. And I couldn’t have picked a better place to do that.
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