Mayor Robert E. Minsky

Domestic Violence Case Coordinator Program

In 1996, the Port St. Lucie Police Department investigated 596 cases of domestic violence and recognized the need to provide more than standard law enforcement response to this ever-growing problem. The city applied for and received a Community Policing to Combat Domestic Violence grant from the Department of Justice to provide the funding necessary to hire a Domestic Violence Case Coordinator and provide police officers with additional training and equipment.

The program is aimed at improving communications with, and services to, victims and offenders through follow-up contacts and extensive case analysis. The Domestic Violence Case Coordinator facilitates the development of comprehensive case files on appropriate domestic violence incidents. These files include officer observations, victim/offender actions, and recommendations from the caseworker of the local shelter, SafeSpace, when victims use their facilities. In addition to case files, the Coordinator enters all domestic violence reports data into a computer program that allows for early identification of repeat cases. The coordinator contacts victims and witnesses, encouraging and coordinating counseling with SafeSpace, offers assistance to victims filing for Injunctions for Protection, and provides emotional support for the victims. Contact is maintained with victims and counselors coordinating with the state attorney's office to ensure quality investigation in these cases. The coordinator continues, as needed, to assist as liaison for victims after case disposal.

To effectively prosecute these cases, the city recognized that domestic violence cases must be treated with the presumption that the victims may not be willing or able to testify on their own behalf. Tape recorders were purchased for officers to record excited statements made by victims and perpetrators during the incident. These tapes are logged as evidence, may be transcribed by the coordinator for use in the case file, and, in some cases, the coordinator may ask the court to listen to a portion or all of the tape when considering a case.

Training has been provided to our officers by members of SafeSpace and a representative from the Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence. The police department already has a preferred arrest policy concerning domestic violence; however, this training has served to enlighten officers on the dynamics of domestic violence and the difficult position of these victims. Officers also learn the necessity of taking before and after photographs of injuries, and other ways to improve their investigations.

This program has effectively improved communications with the victims of domestic violence in Port St. Lucie, and has resulted in a cooperative effort between law enforcement officers and state attorneys. Cases that were routinely disposed of in the past are now resulting in increased prosecution where counseling is routinely requested in sentencing.

CONTACT: Michele Laboskie, Domestic Violence Case Coordinator, Port St. Lucie Police Department, 121 SW Port St. Lucie Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, FL 34984, Telephone - (561) 871-5037, Fax - (561) 340-2013.

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