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. Avalos gets life in prison for killing Bradenton neighbor, pastor


    BRADENTON — A Florida man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a neighbor and a local pastor.

    Andres "Andy" Avalos has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a neighbor and a local pastor. 

[File photo from Manatee County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Manchester police hunt for accomplices; Islamic State group claims responsibility for blast

    Public Safety

    MANCHESTER, England — Investigators hunted Tuesday for possible accomplices of the suicide bomber who attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people and sparking a stampede of young concertgoers, some still wearing the American pop star's trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons.

    Emergency services work at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig in Manchester, England Monday, May 22, 2017. Several people have died following reports of an explosion Monday night at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England, police said. A representative said the singer was not injured.  [Peter Byrne | PA via AP]
  3. Why's Pam Bondi raising money? Not to run for office, she says.


    Term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have restarted her political fundraising, but she says she's not considering a run for another public office.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi
  4. Roommates in Tampa Palms slaying case never outgrew Nazi sympathies, friend says


    TAMPA — Like most people, Watson Fincher was shocked to hear that a neo-Nazi turned jihadi stands accused of killing his two Tampa Palms roommates — and that a fourth roommate told federal agents he, too, was a neo-Nazi, had bomb materials and was planning to target infrastructure.

    Authorities investigating a double murder Friday in the Hampton at Tampa Palms complex found explosives and bomb-manking materials in an apartment there. [ANASTASIA DAWSON   |   Times]
  5. The new 'Baywatch' movie is basically about hot people in swimsuits


    Baywatch is a running gag in slow motion, a thong-in-cheek TV retread swapping wholesome jiggles for dirty giggles. There are places for such humor but beaches don't have gutters.

    Kelly Rohrbach as CJ Parker, Alexandra Daddario as Summer, Ilfenesh Hadera as Stephanie Holden, Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon, Zac Efron as Matt Brody and Jon Bass as Ronnie in the film, "Baywatch."