Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Valerie Martinez-Jordan says she had no intention of becoming a police officer in her younger days.
Now, she is making waves nationwide for her work fighting domestic violence through laws that are taking guns out of the hands and homes of abusers.
However, the Colorado native does not see herself as a hero.
“I’m nothing special….I don’t even feel like it’s above and beyond. I just feel like this is my role. This is my job,” Valerie says. “I want to leave the world a little better than when I found it. It’s all I want to do.”
As the avid animal lover was pursuing a law enforcement certification to become a game warden in Colorado, Valerie says that law enforcement “found her.”
“I met an elderly gentleman. He was just sitting in a chair at a disturbance, and everybody was talking to the family, and they were yelling and screaming…so I went over and talked to him, and somebody passed a comment [that] he was old, he was stupid. Pretty much being demeaning toward him, so I went over and told him hello,” Valerie says.
“There was a call that they wanted to commend the officer that took the time to extend courtesies to an old man that had kind of just been ignored…If I could just make a difference smiling and saying hello to just one elderly person, then maybe there’s just a little bit something more to policing.”
When Valerie finished her training at the academy, she returned home and obtained a job with the local sheriff’s office, officially beginning her law enforcement career.
Her life would then take a turn, though, that would set her on a course toward her advocacy for victims of domestic violence.
Throughout her childhood, Valerie was a victim of both physical and sexual abuse at the hand of her biological father. She disclosed the horrors to her boyfriend at the time, telling him that the way to help her was to get her out of her home.
On the day she graduated from high school, Valerie moved out of her home, married her boyfriend and never returned.
The horrors did not end there, though.
“My knight in shining armor became my monster,” Valerie says. “There were red flag indicators now that I look back.”
Valerie says her then-husband began exhibiting violent and controlling behaviors, including anger issues, aggression and criminal damage to property. His behavior worsened as she became involved in law enforcement, growing jealous of the male law enforcement officers with whom she worked. When Valerie would return from her secondary part-time job, he accused her of lying about her whereabouts.
The abuse reached a peak when he pushed Valerie down and began beating and punching her, hitting her in the chest so hard that she damaged her sternum.
Valerie says that her youngest daughter Anaya, who was three years old at the time, tried to help her, but her then-husband shoved Anaya as well, causing her to step on a piece of glass and begin bleeding. Valerie managed to fight him off of her, crawling over to protect her daughter.
He then began to threaten Valerie with the broken head of a ceramic eagle.
“I told him the words, ‘You don’t have to kill me because you already did,’” Valerie says.
Valerie says he used the eagle head to bust the windows of her car, knowing she would be unable to flee in the winters of Colorado with her two daughters with broken car windows.
Valerie called a friend in law enforcement who was on duty for help. Her then-husband was found, arrested and later convicted of his crimes. In the meantime, Valerie obtained protective orders and a divorce.
Her abusive ex-husband moved away, and roughly a year later, Valerie met the man who would become her second husband.
However, her first ex-husband returned and attacked Valerie in the presence of her second husband. When he began stalking Valerie and violating the protective order, Valerie knew she needed to leave Colorado for good.
Valerie’s second husband was originally from Louisiana, so the pair left with Valerie’s daughters and arrived in Louisiana in 2001.
One month later, Valerie was hired by LPSO. Only a few years later, tragedy would again strike in her life.
In 2005, Valerie’s niece Phenia moved to Louisiana to live with Valerie and her husband. Valerie says her niece had been struggling with getting into fights, finding herself in youth detention and engaging with drugs.
When she became of age, Phenia moved back to Colorado, due for her first child in January of 2015. Phenia’s boyfriend stabbed her to death, killing the baby as well. Her family buried them both on the baby’s due date.
“I promised her when we buried her that I would honor her, and I would not let her death be in vain,” Valerie says.
And Phenia’s death would not be in vain, as Valerie began working with Sheriff Craig Webre toward getting laws passed in Louisiana that would remove guns from the hands of abusers.
LPSO began dissecting the numbers for domestic homicides in Louisiana and discovered that firearms played a substantial role in such cases. However, no action was being taken to combat such violence.
“In 2009, we knew that we didn’t have state laws. We only had federal prohibition, so that meant we had to partner with ATF, so ATF came in and we kind of devised a process, and we started just doing notifications on behalf of ATF, partnering with them,” Valerie says.
When a gun was involved with a case, LPSO officers would arrive at the scene with ATF agents, informing perpetrators of the laws and offering them a chance to surrender. ATF would investigate and forcefully remove perpetrators if needed.
In 2013, a quadruple homicide in Terrebonne and Lafourche launched advancements surrounding the necessity of state prohibition, which was obtained. The official legislation prohibited the possession of firearms following a qualifying protective order or conviction for abuse, allowing firearm possession to be monitored at a local level.
Valerie then pushed for additional laws enabling a state-mandated divestiture process, which were passed as well.
Within the first few years, over 200 firearms were removed from the hands of people with convictions or qualifying orders against them.
“We developed the state program, and we traveled the entire state and trained hundreds upon hundreds of people on the mandatory divestiture process, the prohibitions, the laws, the ins and outs and how they work, so it’s just been a long process,” Valerie says.
Valerie, who began her role with LPSO’s domestic violence unit in 2008, says that the work she has done has all been fueled by the need to help victims of domestic violence. The unit has gone above and beyond, escorting victims to doctors appointments and court dates, as well as arranging daycare efforts for children of victims for their court dates.
Valerie is proud of the waves that LPSO, based out of a small town in a small parish in Louisiana, has been able to make on a national level. She sees opportunity for the parish’s efforts to be replicated on a national scale.
“If we can help this many people, 1,200 victims out of this office, imagine what we could do if people would expand upon our program to other agencies,” Valerie says. “If Lafourche Parish in little old Thibodaux can do this, so could they…We pride ourselves on being a bridge, not an island…We’re willing to share and help foster and nurture other programs and replicate what we have. We are proving that it can be done, and it should be done.”
Today, Valerie describes herself as a “homebody” who is also in school full time with the hopes of traveling and aiding in creating and developing programs nationwide. She married her third husband in 2013 and says she enjoys doing repurposing projects in her free time.
Her daughters, Ayanna and Anaya, have both gone on to serve in law enforcement themselves. Anaya’s area is corrections, whereas Ayanna is on patrol.
When Anaya first told Valerie that she had intentions of applying for the sheriff’s office, Valerie says it “crushed her,” as she knew firsthand what her daughter would have to experience.
Nonetheless, Valerie is undoubtedly proud of her daughters and their commitment to being the best they can be at their jobs.
“You treat everybody with respect, you treat everybody fairly and you take pride in your job, no matter what it is you’re doing – if you’re roofing a house or if you’re the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, Valerie says. “You do your job as if it is the most important job in the world, and I’ve always held on to that, and I told that to my daughters, too.
If there is anything that she wants victims of domestic violence to know, it’s that speaking up and acknowledging one’s victimization should not be embarrassing.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is or may be a victim, please report to Valerie at LPSO at 985-449-4479. POV