Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco domestic violence advocate to receive White House award

Two days before his trip to the White House, Vince Mazzara was searching for purple fabric to tuck into his suit pocket. His purple tie alone didn't seem enough.

The addition of a handkerchief speaks louder, he said. Purple ribbons are used to symbolize the dedication of putting a stop to domestic violence, and honoring its victims. And for Mazzara, when it comes to matters of domestic violence, he wants his message to be loud and clear: Nobody should be a victim of a loved one, but if they are, there's help.

That is why today he is being honored at the White House as part of the Champions of Change program, a weekly recognition of individuals from around the country who do extraordinary things behind the scenes, but often don't get the credit they deserve.

"I wish I could wear my heart on my sleeves to say, 'I'm a cop and I want victims to call (for help),'" he said earlier this week, while preparing for his trip to Washington D.C.

Instead, he wears purple.

"It's all about the victims, not about what he wears," said a chuckling Penny Morrill, CEO, of Dade City-based Sunrise Domestic and Sexual Violence Center. "That's so Vince."

Mazzara, 61, of Land O'Lakes, is a former law enforcement officer from Detroit and Palm Beach County who came out of retirement to serve a two-year stint at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. He has dedicated much of his career to domestic violence issues.

His first dealings with domestic violence are personal.

"I had a tough, old Sicilian father," he said, adding that it wasn't often, but it was enough that things got rough in his childhood home in Detroit. "He was pretty tough and there were times he would start battles at my home."

It wasn't so much the violence, which came in the form of spankings with a leather belt; it was the rage that scared him – and the look on the face of his mother, whom he described as a gentle, loving woman. He doesn't remember his father hurting her physically, but the terror in her eyes he will never forget.

Then as a cop, he met victim after victim – young and old – and he couldn't turn away.

He was moved by "seeing how traumatized they were and trying to help them in any way I could."

As a police officer in Cape Coral, he started to write policy to assist other officers in handling such sensitive cases. In 1997, he was appointed by then-Palm Beach County Sheriff Bob Neumann, a former FBI agent Mazzara worked with on high-profile cases back in Detroit, to start a new domestic violence program, which won a Department of Justice grant. He has also been involved with several domestic violence task forces and served on national and state domestic violence fatality review teams.

Once he moved to Pasco County to retire, he became a board member of Sunrise, where he made a bigger impact than he realized. Morrill said she was starting to get lost in the business of the organization. Mazzara's dedication reminded her that the focus of the center is the victims.

"I used to think I was passionate," said Morrill, "but I can't hold a candle to Vince."

Morrill said she recently got a call from Lynn Rosenthal, White House Domestic Violence advisor and a former executive director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, asking what she thought about nominating Mazzara for the White House award.

Morrill thought it was perfect.

"I was extremely excited, particularly of him getting a national award," she said of learning a week ago that he had been selected. "He's so deserving."

But don't say that to Mazzara, who now works at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence as a STOP (Service Training Officers and Prosecutors) rrant monitor.

"I'm very humbled by it," he said. "There are thousands and thousands of advocates out there who work day in and day out that touch the victims, and their work goes unrecognized."

This award isn't for him, he said. He is merely representing the police officers, prosecutors, hotline operators, victims' advocates and others who dedicate their lives to helping domestic violence victims.

"He's a great addition to (the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence). It's really very exciting to have him honored in this way," said Leisa Wiseman, Mazzara's supervisor and coalition spokeswoman. "It just brings great awareness to domestic violence."

>>on the web

White House visit

Vince Mazzara and 13 others who have dedicated their professional lives to domestic violence issues will be honored today at the White House, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event can be watched live at 1 p.m. by visiting

• • •

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic or sexual violence, contact the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-500-1119.

Pasco domestic violence advocate to receive White House award 10/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 8:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  2. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  3. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  4. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.