Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Fredericksburg’s Finest on Fridays – CPO Heather Lloyd
Position/Rank: Community Police Officer
Years of service: 10
If strength and tenacity were measured by size alone, then Heather Lloyd at “five foot nothing” in her work boots might be considered a negligible force. Instead, this community police officer who is assigned to patrol the neighborhoods of Mayfield and Darbytown lives large in her certainty that she can overcome any obstacle thrown in her path. Her entire life is a testament to that belief.
Abandoned as an infant by her teenage mother, Heather was raised by her grandparents and never knew until she was a young teen herself that the people she loved as her mom and dad were really the parents of her birth mother. She thought her birth mother, who made random appearances in the family picture throughout her life, was actually a somewhat wayward older sister.
While her birth may have been a matter of chance, Heather believes that the way she lives her life is a matter of her own determination.
After graduating from Courtland High School in 1999, Heather joined the Army National Guard and was assigned to the local 229th Battalion when it was activated to full duty following 9/11. Once she fulfilled her six year commitment with the Guard, Heather turned to law enforcement and spent almost two years on the Aquia Harbor force before joining the Fredericksburg Police Department in 2005.
As a patrol officer, Heather feels strongly about making connections with the people she serves. “I can talk to anybody. Anybody. And maybe by making that effort I can really make a difference.”
In 2009, Heather became a community police officer, one of four city officers who are assigned to neighborhoods that face unique challenges related to crime and social and economic concerns. Heather takes pride in knowing the members of her community personally and says that she never gives up on people and their ability to succeed despite their personal struggles, whatever those may be.
She should know. In February last year, doctors found a cancerous tumor in Heather’s brain. On April 17, 2012, she underwent surgery to have it removed. Her physicians were able to extract 42% of the paraganglioma but they determined that removing the remaining mass could kill her due to its proximity to her brain stem. Complications from the surgery left Heather unable to speak and swallow properly and she had to eat via a feeding tube for 75 days. As she slowly regained her speech through therapy and endured daily treatments of radiation, Heather returned to work for the department at a desk in the E-911 Center and fought to get her life back.
She was finally cleared to return to patrol duty on October 22, 2012 and Heather was ecstatic to be back on the street, even though her doctor told her that she would never again be physically 100%. She was determined to prove him wrong.
In January of this year, Heather took up running and now logs 75-135 miles per month in her Nikes. In the last seven months she has completed four half marathons, two 10-Ks, and seven 5-K races. She is training for her first full marathon scheduled in Virginia Beach in March, and she says that she has never felt better.
Heather says that surviving cancer has changed her in unexpected ways. She’s more spontaneous and more inclined to try new things. With that in mind, last month Heather agreed to go hiking in the mountains, a pastime that she previously avoided. With her wife Tina and their dog Cooley, Heather hiked up to the waterfall at White Oak Canyon.
Just after this picture was taken, she slipped on the wet stones at the highest point and fell forty feet down the rocky face of the falls into the water below. She was stunned, and for several minutes she was unable to help herself under the water while Tina tried to reach her.
Cooley got there first. The Labrador Retriever swam up underneath her body and grabbed her shirt, pulling her back into the shallows.
Of course after that ordeal, she insisted on hiking back out again.
I saw Heather the next day, in uniform and reporting for duty. She had a cracked tooth and was covered in bruises but it never occurred to her to take the day off. During our interview for this piece, I noticed a new tattoo on her wrist which seemed appropriate but almost an understatement.
Check out the previous Fredericksburg’s Finest: Bea Brooks