I was a little surprised to see a police cruiser parked across the street from the entrance to the polls. I checked with some friends, and it sounds like there was a strong police presence at all of the polls all day long (which explains why, when I called in a noise complaint earlier in the day, I was informed that it would be a while before they could get around to dispatching anyone).
One person I spoke to said he felt very intimidated by the police presence, especially when the cruiser outside the WOW center followed his car home and then looped back around to return to the center. He was furious when he told me this story. In the interests of fairness, I tended to believe that it was an unfortunate coincidence but did a little research and learned that a strong police presence at the voting places can be a very bad idea.
Here's an excerpt from an ACLU of Virginia news release dated October 21, 2004:
Civil liberties group says many voters won’t show if police are present
The ACLU of Virginia today asked the Chesterfield County registrar to withdraw a plan to post armed, uniformed police officers at the County’s 62 polling places on Election Day. The ACLU says that the police presence--a reminder of when armed government officials were used to prevent minorities from voting--will intimidate many potential voters, causing them to avoid the polls.
An article on the website of the American University Radio by Jessica Forres dated November 5, 2008 had this to say on the topic:
A Latino advocacy group says some Hispanic voters in Virginia's Prince William County may have been intimidated by the heavy police presence at one polling site.
It seems like it's a very delicate balance. If police have received a credible threat that would place voters in danger when they vote, then of course there should be a strong presence. But if voters feel intimidated, then that's a problem that needs to be fixed.