Pitt County's fight against domestic violence
Posted December 17, 2014
Updated December 18, 2014
The case of Brandi Baggett – profiled in our WRAL Documentary "Enough is eNOugh" – has only strengthened the resolve of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, which made its domestic violence unit part of its major crimes division.
That move reflects the agency’s desire to treat domestic violence seriously rather than as a private family dispute, which has been the more traditional law enforcement approach to domestic violence for decades. The agency is all about letting go of the status quo and, instead, turning to non-traditional approaches.
For example, it focuses its efforts on the time between an offender's arrest and trial, a period where cases are often lost before they can ever be tried because offenders intimidate their victims and discourage them from testifying.
The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office is cracking down on offenders who do that, adding charges that often lead to their bond being modified or revoked and them going back to jail while awaiting trial.
The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office has also found ways around a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevents its deputies from entering statements from a victim as evidence at trial should the victim choose not to appear in court. The ruling is based on the constitutional right of a defendant to face his or her accuser. Its deputies now gather statements from the victims’ family members, friends and neighbors, which can be admitted as evidence as an exception to the court ruling.
Pitt County’s innovative approach has earned it two big federal grants to fight domestic violence in less than two years. The county is serving as a model for other law enforcement agencies around the state and nation.
But as its domestic violence detective, John Guard, says, “We, as a society, need to work harder to prevent domestic violence before it ever becomes an issue for law enforcement.”