GREENVILLE, N.C. — In a live virtual ceremony on April 23, the United States Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime awarded the First Responders Award to Chief John Guard of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office in recognition of his expertise in investigating domestic violence cases.
The Award for First Responders category recognizes individuals from law enforcement, emergency services, firefighting and rescue professions for extraordinary acts of valor on behalf of crime victims or contributions to the crime victims’ field beyond the call of duty.
“Chief Deputy Guard has changed the way law enforcement officers in his jurisdiction and throughout his state respond to domestic violence, putting the safety and welfare of victims ahead of all other concerns,” said OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General Maureen A. Henneberg. “We commend him for his advocacy and compassion and for standing by victims of abuse in their time of need.”
Chief Guard is responsible for assigning and supervising criminal intimate partner investigations. Legislators and victim advocates have consulted him on state legislation for domestic violence response, including bills that granted powers of arrest for violation of pretrial release and that provide stronger firearm removal provisions for offenders subject to domestic violence protection orders. After the 2004 Crawford v. Washington Supreme Court decision, which reformulated the standard for determining when hearsay statements can be admitted in criminal cases, Chief Guard changed the investigative practices of the Pitt County Domestic Violence Unit to include the use of electronic monitoring for domestic violence offenders, increased focus on witness intimidation in intimate partner violence and utilization of the Lethality Assessment Program at all domestic violence calls. Chief Guard also provides training to law enforcement officers and other allied professionals throughout the state and nation on the dynamics of domestic violence from a law enforcement and social justice perspective.
“Chief Deputy Guard has made a pivotal impact on the way police respond to domestic violence, working tirelessly for stronger legal protections, educating his fellow officers on the provisions of the law and going the extra mile on behalf of victims,” said OVC Acting Director Katherine Darke Schmitt. “He has dramatically improved how law enforcement responds to these cases and he has helped to change the way victims of domestic violence are treated by the criminal justice system.”
Sheriff Paula Dance saluteed Chief Guard’s passion and leadership in the service of crime victims, especially within the domestic violence community, and is proud to see him given such a well-deserved honor from Attorney General Merrick Garland and his staff.