Gone is the traditional response to domestic violence wherein officers hesitated to become involved in what they believed was a family private affair. As time went by law enforcement began to realize that it was important to become involved and break the cycle of violence.
There are DART Officers on each of the four patrol squads with one DART Team squad leader for each squad. These team leaders provide added support and guidance to the remaining Patrol Officers in handling domestic violence calls.
Officers responding to a domestic violence call will stabilize the scene and explain to the victim that they are about to contact the on-call DART Advocate. The Officer will call the advocate and give them a brief summary of the event. Afterwards, the victim will speak to the DART Volunteer Advocate who will then provide the victim with all the necessary information and referrals. The Advocate makes a follow-up contact with the victim on the following day.
The Lakeland Police Department's Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) has earned a national reputation for their efforts in providing quality information, education, referrals, support, follow-up assistance, as well as providing community awareness on domestic violence. Sworn officers and trained community civilian DART advocates work together with human service providers in the surrounding communities.
Addressing The Needs of Children Who Witness Domestic Violence
The Lakeland Police Department utilizes an innovative way to reach children under the age of 16 who are witnessing violence in their home by addressing their needs through a partnership with the school they attend. The Department's Patrol Officers, upon responding to the scene of a domestic violence call and determining that a child/children witnessed the event, will offer a "Parental Consent Form" for the non-offending parent to sign. This form allows the parent(s) to state they would like for their children to receive help and support through their guidance office the following day at school.
Trained civilian DART advocates are deeply committed to addressing the needs of our domestic violence clients. We work in collaboration with many agencies to provide prompt services to the victims and their families. This innovative program is an example of an agency having the vision to develop a unit such as DART. Trained advocates working in partnership with our Department's sworn officers in domestic violence cases is an example of "community policing" at its best.
Those interested in becoming a DART Advocate must complete an application form within the Department, submit to a background check, an interview, and 16 hours of training. Once training is completed, the new advocates are ready to sign up for the on-call patrol schedule and began assisting victims of domestic violence.
The DART program also serves as an internship site for high school and college students.
CELLULAR TELEPHONE PROGRAM
Cellular Telephones are offered to domestic violence victims when they have obtained an injunction. They may keep the phone for up to thirty (30) days.