Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Stephanie Mitchell, who spent five years as a patrol Officer in Sevierville, Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains, is a few months into her new post as Liaison to the Morris County Family Justice Center.
Overseen by the 43-year-old JBWS Inc., a non-profit support agency for victims of domestic violence, the Family Justice Center opened in April 2016 in the Morris County Administration and Records Building as a one-stop resource center for people in need of its services.
Officer Mitchell, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2014, was dedicated by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon to the position at the Family Justice Center in July 2019, a post previously held by a Morristown Police Officer.
The Center’s onsite partners serve about 400 adults and 40 children annually.
Officer Mitchell works from an office inside the Center, providing a layer of security within the site. She assists victims of domestic violence with filling out police reports, applying for temporary restraining orders (TRO), and collecting evidence, if necessary, to forward to municipal police departments where the alleged abuse occurred.
More importantly, Officer Mitchell is a patient, compassionate presence for individuals who need guidance on the process of filing a police report or a civil domestic violence complaint that seeks a TRO. She also connects people with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office if an alleged offense rises to the level of a crime.
“In Tennessee, I would go out on domestic violence calls. I’ve always been interested in helping people. Domestic violence is a difficult topic but I feel I’m helping,” she said.
Officer Mitchell appeared with Sheriff Gannon at a meeting Monday, October 7, of the Morris County Board of Freeholders, who issued a proclamation to JBWS Chief Executive Officer Diane Williams and Vice President of Client Services Diana Kurlander that acknowledged the non-profit’s enduring work and that October is recognized as national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Sheriff Gannon said that years ago, there were few domestic violence laws in effect.
“Sadly, absent those very important protection orders and intervention strategies, the homicide rate was higher,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Domestic violence-related crimes still occur, but laws and growth of services led to a transformation. An entity like the Family Justice Center provides victims with swift, safe access to resources that they would not have had years ago, the Sheriff said.
“Now, I’m very happy to say that while tragedies still occur, people can come into that Family Justice Center and have one-stop shopping, whether they’re children who were witnesses to domestic violence or abused themselves, and adults,” Sheriff Gannon said.
He said that Officer Mitchell is a perfect fit for the Family Justice Center.
“She comes credentialed from an educational perspective in psychology and criminal justice with a minor in Spanish. She was a local police officer in Tennessee for five years and then she worked in our Correctional Facility for some time before she came on board with the Bureau of Law Enforcement. I feel very comfortable as the Sheriff of Morris County to have her represent me in there, providing a safe environment for people so they can get the services they deserve,” Sheriff Gannon said.
The daughter of a now-retired U.S. Air Force Major, Officer Mitchell lived in South Florida and Texas and graduated from Grafton High School in Virginia. She went to Radford University in Virginia, and was part of a terrifying campus-wide lockdown on April 16, 2007, when a gunman 15 minutes away murdered 33 people at Virginia Tech.
Officer Mitchell earned a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice and psychology and minored in Spanish, before moving to Tennesee, where she worked for the police department of Sevierville, Tennessee – country singer Dolly Parton’s hometown – from August 2007 to April 2012.
Officer Mitchell moved with her now-husband to New Jersey, and worked a loss prevention position for The Gap and security for Hunterdon Medical Center.
She was hired by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office in the fall of 2015, and started as a Corrections Officer in the Morris County Correctional Facility. In July 2016, she transferred to the Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Law Enforcement, completed her academy training, and was assigned to the Bureau’s Protective Services Division at the Morris County Courthouse.
Earlier in 2019, she was certified as one of two PAARI Officers at the Courthouse. The Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative is a program through which people struggling with substance use disorders can come to the Courthouse, request help for their addiction, be screened by the PAARI Officer, and if eligible, be connected to a Certified Peer Recovery specialist from Daytop New Jersey.
Officer Mitchell said she has met at the Family Justice Center with people between the ages of 17 and 95, and always strives to be calm and make them feel at ease.
“That’s the point of the Justice Center: to provide a safe, calm space for the victims,” she said.