Lisa King makes history in the Hot Springs Police Department
Growing up, Lisa King did not dream of blue lights and badges. Her calling to become a police officer came later during an armed robbery of the grocery store where she worked. The suspect came into the store, grabbed her and put a knife to her throat. She was 16. “I was an easy target,” King said. “I didn’t see him.” The incident sparked King’s interest in working in law enforcement. “I think that’s what first started it, being in that situation and thinking about how terrified I was. If I can stop or help anybody from going through that, or even related to them with my experience, I’ve done what I set out to do,” she said.
King has worked as a police officer for over two decades. On Sept. 8, she was promoted to captain, making her the first woman to hold the position in the history of the Hot Springs Police Department.
King is one of two captains and presides over the HSPD Support Operations Bureau, which includes the criminal investigations division, narcotics, records, dispatch and nuisance abatement.
“It is a privilege to be able to be the first female captain to serve the community the best that I can, and if you will, open the door for others to come behind me,” she said. “When I first got hired, there were not that many females in any type of rank structure. To me, being able to hopefully open the door for the other women coming up or just starting is important.”
King says she has had to find ways to cope with the tragedies she inevitably witnesses - some incidences so horrifying she will not even share them with her family. For her, compartmentalizing what she sees at work and having a strong support system works best. She stressed the importance of having people who can be there for you after a particularly difficult day both at work and at home.
“Being in this line of work is not for everyone. It is a calling,” King said. “Something happens in your life that leads you to do this. It helps having people you can talk to at work because they have seen the same kinds of things and can help you work through it.”
King said she has seen her fair share of domestic abuse cases and has even seen the effects of domestic violence trickle down into the next generation. In an attempt to combat the staggering numbers of domestic abuse on both women and men, the state implemented measures within the criminal justice system to protect victims. These measures resulted in Laura’s Law.
According to the criminal justice institute, Laura’s Law requires police officers responding to domestic violence incidents to ask victims a set of questions to evaluate their risk of being killed by abuse. The assessment aims to help identify victims in severe danger needing intervention. Police will also present victims with a “Laura’s Card,” a document listing their rights and contact information for local prosecutors and shelters.
In some instances, King says she and other local officers have gone so far as to escort victims to shelters and ensure they reach a safe, secure destination away from their abuser.
“The first thing when we get a call for domestic violence or a disturbance is making sure everyone is safe when we arrive. My thing is to always get (the victim) away from the abuser where you can have one-on-one time with them and let them express what they need to express,” she said.
King says that the domestic abuse in Garland County is not limited to male on female crimes but extends into every possible scenario for abuse. Unfortunately, by the time they are able to respond to a call, the abuser has typically fled the scene. In that instance, law enforcement has up to 12 hours to make an arrest without the need for a judge to issue a warrant. However, the majority of victims will ultimately decline to pursue charges out of fear of repercussions from their abuser.
“If we arrive on scene and she’s or he’s like, ‘I don’t want to do anything,’ but she’s sitting there bleeding, we can still arrest the suspect,” King said. “It doesn’t matter if they want to pursue charges because the state picks up those charges. That helps protect the victim a little bit, too.”
All too often King says officers respond to the same locations and deal with the same people over and over again, noting that it happens across Hot Springs, not just areas with high poverty rates. She said it takes a victim leaving up to seven times before they finally muster up the courage to leave for good. When that finally happens, King says the police department is there, ready and willing to help the victim find safe, secure shelter.
“It’s our job to protect and make sure everybody is safe. We’re going to do our job even when it gets frustrating. We’re going to handle whatever we need to do,” she said.
King analysing a crime scene.