CITY OF LAKELAND, FL
Mayor Ralph L. Fletcher
 

Lakeland Police Domestic Abuse Response Team (D.A.R.T.)

The Lakeland Police D.A.R.T. program, initiated in June, 1991, is a nationally recognized, cooperative effort between the Lakeland Police Department and civilian volunteers. Sworn officers and volunteers work together to address the needs of families involved in domestic violence incidents. Officers handle the law enforcement duties of the call, while civilian volunteers handle the non-law enforcement/human services aspects.

Sworn officers who volunteer to serve in D.A.R.T. must apply to the Department in order to perform this specialized assignment. Once selected, officers must attend 40 hours of crisis intervention training and 40 hours of domestic violence intervention training. These officers perform their D.A.R.T. duties in addition to normal work requirements. Although non-specialized patrol officers also handle domestic violence calls, D.A.R.T. officers assigned to the squad assist by taking pictures, completing supplemental and/or follow-up reports, and by providing input regarding arrest decisions. Their role is to ensure that Lakeland's judicial requirements are met for domestic violence cases.

The volunteer D.A.R.T. group consists of citizens who must apply to the Department. All applications are screened, a eligible applicants must satisfactorily complete a background check and a thorough interview with a board consisting of D.A.R.T. members. Once selected, they receive 16 hours of training on domestic violence and basic listening and counseling skills before being placed "on-call." In addition, many volunteers complete the same 80 hours of training the officers undergo. This training teaches them how to diffuse situations and understand how they, as a volunteers, complement the officers' response.

Lakeland's civilian D.A.R.T. program is comprised of approximately 30 volunteers and one coordinator. The coordinator prepares an on-call schedule, interviews volunteer applicants, and makes public presentations about D.A.R.T. upon request. Four volunteers act as liaisons between the sworn and civilian components. The liaison contacts the on-call volunteer to respond to a call once he or she is informed by an officer of the call. If the on-call volunteer is not available, the liaison accepts responsibility for the call.

Officers contact a D.A.R.T. volunteer as part of every domestic violence investigation. The on-call volunteer usually speaks to the victim via telephone. In some cases, they meet with the victim(s) at the hospital emergency room or another safe location. This contact with a friendly voice or face helps to reduce the intimidation a victim may feel at the sight of a uniformed officer. The volunteer offers information, support and informs the victim of available resources. Their primary role is to act as a facilitator for information exchange. They answer questions such as "What will happen to my children if I try to get help?" and "How do I get an injunction to protect me?" and Where do I go now?" The volunteers take an active interest in each victim, making sure that they are provided with appropriate information as their needs change over time.

Because of the specialized approach and attention given to each domestic violence call, Lakeland has an exceptionally high clearance rate for these cases. Of 995 domestic violence offenses in 1996, 522 arrests were made and all but 11 cases were cleared. These figures reflect a 98.9 percent clearance rate and a 52 percent arrest rate.

The Lakeland D.A.R.T. program has an annual budget of $3,000 for travel expenses, training and educational materials, equipment and supplies necessary for presentations, copying expenses, postage, phone charges and other miscellaneous costs. Work space and an interview room is provided by the police department. Sources of funding include small grants and awards, local corporate and private donations, and the Lakeland Police Department Chaplaincy Board which funds a $1,000 part-time coordinator position. 21 police personnel are involved in the program, and 32 volunteers (including eight bilingual volunteers.

Contact: Captain A.G. "Chip" Brown, CO/Uniform Patrol Division II, or Linda Rahmation, D.A.R.T. Civilian Volunteer Coordinator, Lakeland Police Department, 219 N. Massachusetts Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801, Phone - (941) 499-6900, Fax - (941) 499-6986.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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