The current statewide legal process for victim survivors of domestic violence to seek court-ordered emergency protections is antiquated and unacceptable.
While the issues surrounding domestic violence have received greater attention, we must understand there are many reasons a victim may be reticent to seek court protection, and the court process should not be one of them.
The Broward County Chiefs of Police Association formed a committee, which included the participation of many stakeholders in Broward County, to re-examine the current process for victims of domestic violence. After months of research, analysis and meetings, the BCCPA issued a comprehensive report examining the current state of the law and the process in Broward.
Points of consensus developed by the committee shine an intense light on what we are failing to do for victims and how we can do more. A major theme included the recognition that the law and the process for victims hasn’t caught up with basic technology available in our daily lives.
Some of the recommendations require the Florida Legislature to amend statutes, the Florida Supreme Court to amend rules of procedure and the courts to implement technology enhancements.
Currently, all victims wanting court-ordered protections from domestic violence must go in person to the main courthouse where they often wait hours, if not the entire day. While there is a system available for electronic filing of petitions, they must still go to the main courthouse to obtain a valid order of protection. The committee was unanimous in concluding that the e-filing system is neither realistically nor meaningfully available to the victims.
The committee recommended, with the support of the clerk of the court, that the three regional courthouses in Hollywood, Deerfield Beach and Plantation be made available for victims to file petitions for injunctions and to obtain the resulting court orders of protection.
Implementation requires the court system to finish technology enhancements that, in the opinion of the committee, should be expedited.
The work of the committee has already generated positive results. The clerk of the court has hired additional staff and refocused resources for victims.
We need to do more than decry how the NFL handles domestic violence or debate the impact of music videos on how women are treated. We must look at what happens daily in our community and ask whether we are doing all that we can do for victim survivors of domestic violence.
This committee report concludes No, we are not. However, if we work together, there is a path to do better.
Mike Ryan, mayor, Sunrise