Brian Chasnoff - Express-News
Officers now are instructed to arrest anyone who violates a protective order — regardless of whether the person is at the scene when officers arrive. Police will devote “a reasonable amount of time” to looking for a suspect, and if the search fails, officers must obtain an arrest warrant immediately, Police Chief William McManus said.
“If you violate a protective order and think you can get away with it by fleeing the scene, think again,” McManus said.
In one recent case, a police officer went to the home of a man who'd just violated a protective order for the third time in two weeks. Instead of arresting him, the officer told the man not to contact his ex-wife anymore.
At the time, Marta Pelaez, president and CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services Inc., strongly criticized the Police Department's initial failure to arrest Vargas before the shootings and bemoaned an apparent lack of urgency among officers in pursuing those who violate protective orders.
“You wait for something so long,” Pelaez said. “You don't know how nice it is.”
Typically sought out of fear for one's safety, protective orders restrict people from a range of behaviors, including calling someone or coming within a certain distance of them. McManus said officers would treat all violations equally.
“A violation is a violation,” he said. “Those seemingly insignificant violations have the potential to lead to greater ones.”
No additional resources will be allocated for the initiative, police spokesman Gabe Trevino said.
“Managing it is going to be the issue,” Helle said. “Who's going to do the legwork on it? You already have detectives who are strapped as it is.”
He added, “Certainly, it's one more thing you're putting on top of (the officers') shoulders. But it's work they're going to have to do, when it comes to the safety of the citizens.”
However, police didn't categorize all violations of protective orders — Class A misdemeanors — as instances of family violence. That disconnect was underscored last month when Vargas disregarded an order three times, threatening his ex-wife on the phone and in person, and avoided arrest before opening fire on his ex-wife and later on police.
Sculley on Wednesday said the new policy evolved out of necessity.
“It's the culmination of too many events,” she said. “It is a growing issue.”