Group takes steps toward protecting domestic abuse victims

November 2, 2003 

Debra Hannula was standing outside the Tacoma City Council Chambers, ready to demand an independent investigation of Police Chief David Brame's career, when she learned Crystal Brame had died.

A friend handed the Tacoma lawyer a flier demanding changes to protect future victims from the kind of domestic violence that cost the chief's wife her life.

"One of the things it said was, 'Crystal, we believe you,'" Hannula said, remembering that sad Saturday afternoon six months ago. "That summed it up."

Hannula chairs what's been known as the Crystal Clear Initiative Committee. It's the only group that seems to be accomplishing change as a result of the day Brame shot his wife and then himself, April 26.

The informal, unsanctioned community group has no funding or legal standing. It's made up of more than 70 community power players, including a state Supreme Court justice, state and local politicians, domestic violence experts, police officers, doctors, a nurse, and a large handful of lawyers.

There's no clear statement of the group's scope, and there are differing stories about how it was created.

But it has this one key accomplishment: Because of its work, the Tacoma Police Department is well on its way to creating a policy regarding officer-involved domestic violence. And this winter the Legislature will debate a bill requiring all law enforcement agencies to have such policies.

Once those two things are finished, the committee will dissolve, Hannula said.

"If this (state law) passes, then every police department in this state will have to have this policy, and that's huge, that's a big victory," she said.

There have been glitches, however:

•Because the group isn't part of a government, its meetings don't have to be open, and agendas aren't public. That has left some community members bewildered about its membership and purpose.

•A few committee members wish the group's scope had been wider, looking at subjects that could have helped Crystal Brame other than just policies on officer-involved domestic violence.

•Even Hannula wishes it weren't taking so long to create Tacoma's policy.

•Crystal Brame's family has no working relationship with the committee, and recently asked it to stop using Crystal's name. Her father, Lane Judson, said he doesn't object to what the committee is doing, but wants to reserve his daughter's name for a hoped-for new federal law.

Hannula has told the committee it's no longer called "Crystal Clear." She's working on a new name.

Accomplishments

In the past six months, the committee has gathered 71 members. The full group has met 10 times; subcommittees have met at least a dozen more times. Hannula and others have talked to domestic violence experts from across the country and studied 20 police departments' domestic violence policies.

In August, consultants from the International Association of Chiefs of Police flew to Tacoma to lead two days of committee discussions on policies regarding officer-involved domestic violence. Ombudsmen from three cities came to explain their roles. Tacoma police Lt. Tom Strickland, a member of the committee, has taken classes on domestic violence and on policy writing.

"I'm really amazed at how much progress we've made in so little time," said Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen, one of the most active members of the committee.

"A lot of these things drag on two years, you get something that sits on a shelf and you do nothing."

The committee has laid the groundwork for a state law that would set minimum guidelines for law enforcement agencies' officer-involved abuse policies.

"Given who's at the table (in the committee), I think this will be very persuasive with the Legislature," Madsen said. "I don't know how the Legislature could be doing its job if they didn't address this."

Indeed, several lawmakers are members of the committee, and House and Senate analysts are working to write what they hope will be a universally acceptable law. It will be proposed when the Legislature convenes Jan. 12.

The committee also has drafted a policy for the Tacoma Police Department covering domestic violence involving its officers.

Strickland, its primary author, has labored on the policy for five months, and presented a first draft to two dozen committee members Oct. 24. There were constant questions:

What did Strickland mean by "conflict" when he referred to job candidates with a history of conflict? Was he using the legal definition of abuse, or the behavioral? If you require employees to disclose any knowledge of abuse by co-workers, does that apply to police chaplains?

In a three-hour meeting, Strickland got only about halfway through the policy. Hannula pointed out that at that rate, they'd have to hold another meeting or two to finish talking about the complete policy. There was a vote. Everyone agreed they wanted to take the extra time so they could ask all the questions they wanted.

That's part of why it's taken so long to create the policy; everyone wants to examine every angle. And the group makes decisions by consensus, making sure everyone agrees before moving on.

"I thought I could have (this policy) done in a couple of weeks," Strickland said. "I started talking to people and it spidered out to all kinds of areas."

Those kinds of discussions, Strickland and Hannula believe, will lead to a stronger policy - and, they hope, a better understanding of domestic violence by the community.

"It seems to be a careful and informed process, which I've been pleased with," said April Gerlock, a committee member who is a University of Washington nursing professor and a psychiatric nurse practitioner with the Veterans Administration.

"It was a bit chaotic at first. ... We had a group of people who were really feeling strongly about this." But now, "We've been doing this long enough to avoid a knee-jerk reaction."

'Astronomical potential'

Committee members believe the group's diversity gives it strength.

A consultant with the International Association of Chiefs of Police said he'd never seen such a powerful, diverse, committed group of community leaders. Because of that, he said, the committee had "astronomical potential."

Commitment from police officers, domestic violence advocates, City Council members, state legislators, domestic violence survivors, treatment providers and lawyers should guarantee the policies the committee develops are effective.

But it doesn't guarantee change.

"While this is a good policy ... it's just a piece of paper," Strickland said when he presented his draft policy to the committee. "It is just one part of a big puzzle when it comes to domestic violence."

With its star-studded lineup, some members hoped the committee would accomplish more. Craig Adams, legal adviser to the Pierce County sheriff, said he'd hoped it would address mandatory domestic violence training for some public employees, or legal changes to make cases more prosecutable.

"Maybe that will still happen," he said.

Grace Huang of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence wishes the committee could do more. But her changes require money and a philosophical change in the minds of the community.

"We would like to see more resources for making sure victims know they have a safe place to go and efforts in helping victims work with their children. And make sure the community is engaged with the effort as well, that they recognize what domestic violence is and they know how to help, they know not to blame the victim for domestic violence or minimize it."

Hannula knows more needs to be done, but those tasks are for others.

"I want mandatory training for judges on domestic violence," she said. "I want family-law lawyers to have domestic violence training.

"It always feels like, will this ever be enough?"

Debra Hannula

It's a well-known name in Tacoma. Her father, Dick, was a renowned swim coach and namesake of the Wilson High School pool. Her brother, Dan, is a lawyer in the prominent Tacoma firm Rush, Hannula, Harkins and Kyler.

Debra Hannula grew up in Tacoma and went to law school in San Diego. She worked with the Northwest Battered Women's Coalition, which defended women who killed their abusers.

Before the Brame shootings, Hannula was a part-time, substitute judge, mostly in King County. Recently she became director of legal services for the YWCA of Pierce County.

The day Crystal Brame died, Hannula went to a special Saturday meeting of the City Council and told council members they needed to find impartial, knowledgeable people to investigate the police chief's history with the city.

As she started to leave the podium, a council member asked her who should be involved.

That night, she started to list people she knew who would make good committee members: John Strait, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law. Lisa Stone of the Northwest Women's Law Center. Grace Huang. The list went on and on.

Hannula and others often say Mayor Bill Baarsma asked her to create and head the committee. Baarsma remembers it differently.

To him, the committee is a community group that came together out of community need. Hannula and a friend and colleague, Lara Herrmann, asked him to support them in creating a community group, he said, and he agreed.

"It was kind of a spontaneous response by the community to do something," he said. "There was some discussion of the city formally recognizing the body by resolution, but I advised that it would be a far more powerful voice if it came from the community and wasn't attached in any way."

The mayor announced formation of the group at a press conference two days after Crystal Brame died.

Informal, but private

Two weeks later, Hannula and a few friends gathered at a coffee shop to talk about what could be done.

The women - Madsen, Huang and state Reps. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) and Jeannie Darnielle (D-Tacoma) - became core members of the committee, the ones who attend meeting after meeting. As a Supreme Court justice, Madsen gives the group much of its cache, and is sometimes referred to as the co-chairwoman.

Herrmann decided not to join the committee, saying she preferred to return to her law practice. But in mid-May she and her sister, Katherine, brought domestic violence expert Diane Wetendorf from Chicago to talk about the dynamics of officer-involved domestic abuse.

The first full meeting of the committee was May 28, in the downtown offices of the law firm Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, Malanca, Peterson and Daheim.

The firm donates space for all the committee's meetings. Lawyers in the group might be blase about the leather chairs and white tablecloths, but public employees treasure the good coffee and fabulous views.

Not being a government group gives the committee great flexibility. City councils and committees must publicize their meetings and allow the public access to almost every document they produce; community groups have no such rules.

That means Hannula can call meetings with an e-mail. They aren't open to the public, though everyone who has asked to join the committee has been welcomed.

Hannula, who has devoted hundreds of hours of unpaid time to the committee, thinks it owes its success to the members' persistence.

"It took on its own credibility because we kept meeting and doing the work," she said. "Ours was the one group that just kept meeting."

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658
lisa.kremer@mail.tribnet.com

CRYSTAL CLEAR INITIATIVE COMMITTEE

CRAIG ADAMS

Legal adviser, Pierce County Sheriff's Department

SARA AINSWORTH

Staff attorney, Northwest Women's Law Center

JESSE ALLEN

Clinical director, Critical Incident Stress Management Team, Pierce County

JOANNA ARLOW

Attorney, aide to State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle)

BILL BAARSMA

Mayor, Tacoma

JULIE BARRETT

Director, attorney and mediator with Policy & Process, Worldwide

WAYNE BEALS

Vice president, Tacoma police union Local 6

BETTY BLAKELY

Our Sisters House

JOHN BRIEHL

Director, Tacoma's Human Rights and Human Services Department

FABIENNE BROOKS

Chief, Criminal Investigations Division, King County Sheriff's Office

CONNIE BROWN

Executive director, YWCA

WENDELL BROWN

Former Pierce County councilman

MARC CHRISTIANSON

Attorney

BILL COBB

Interim King County director of probation

MARY CONWAY

Aide to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Shoreline)

ANNE CROWLEY

Assistant Tacoma city attorney

STATE REP. JEANNIE DARNEILLE

(D-Tacoma)

STATE REP. MARY LOU DICKERSON

(D-Seattle)

ANN EFT

Director, Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence

LYNDA RING-ERICKSON

Management and policy analyst

TAMMY FELLIN

Association of Washington Cities

JUDIE FORTIER

Women's rights coordinator, City of Tacoma

KRISTIN GABEL

Domestic violence court resource advocate, Des Moines

ANNE GANLEY

Psychologist

DR. APRIL GERLOCK

Clinical assistant professor, School of Nursing, University of Washington

HOWARD GRAHAM

Attorney

ANITA CHAKRAVARTI HALE

Attorney

DEBRA HANNULA

Attorney

RUSS HAUGE

Kitsap County prosecutor

JANET HELSON

Columbia Legal Services

GLORIA HEMMEN

Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts

CAROLEE HIGGINS

Executive director, Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County

STEVE HOLMES

Detective, Tacoma Police Department

GRACE HUANG

Public policy coordinator, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

TRUDES HUTCHESON

Staff counsel, State House of Representatives

TINA JOHNSON

aide to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma)

JULIET JONES

Attorney, Washington State Patrol

DAN KYLER

Attorney, president of Tacoma/Pierce County Bar Association

CONNIE LADENBURG

Tacoma city councilwoman

MARK LANGFORD

Captain, Tacoma Police Department

STATE REP. PAT LANTZ

(D-Gig Harbor)

MARK LARSEN

Chief criminal deputy, King County Prosecutor's Office

MARILYN LITTLEJOHN

City of Seattle

PAM LOGINSKY

Attorney, Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

BARBARA MADSEN

Justice, Washington State Supreme Court

PENNI MAPLES

Education director, Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County

ROBERTO MAESTAS

Executive director, El Centro de la Raza

NORM MALENG

King County prosecutor

SHARON MANIER

Our Sisters House

ELIZABETH MARTIN

Attorney

WILLIAM MEEKS

Captain, Tacoma Police Department

DOUG MILLER

Tacoma city councilman

JOHN A. MILLER

Fircrest municipal court judge

EILEEN O'BRIEN

Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

PAUL PASTOR

Pierce County sheriff

ESTHER PATRICK

Proud African American Youth Society

STEVE PEPPIN

President, Northwest Association of Domestic Violence Treatment Professionals

LEO PORT

Legal adviser, City of Seattle

DEB PRATHER

Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs

LUA PRITCHARD

Korean Women's Association

ROXANNE RARANGOL

President, Pierce County Minority Bar Association

STATE SEN. DEBBIE REGALA

(D-Tacoma)

BILL ROBERTS

Detective, Clark County Sheriff's Office

ELAINE ROSE

Senior assistant, Office of the Attorney General

SUDHA SHETTY

Attorney

TOM STRICKLAND

Lieutenant, Tacoma Police Department

LISA STONE

Executive director, Northwest Women's Law Center

JOHN STRAIT

Professor, Seattle University School of Law

SCOTT SUFFICOOL

City of Seattle

GLENDA TANNER

Proud African American Youth Society

ROBERT THOMS

Aide to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Edmonds)

JORDAN TRIPLETT

Aide to U.S. Rep Adam Smith (D-Tacoma)

TIFFANY TULL

Lawyer, YWCA of Pierce County

STATE REP. VELMA VELORIA

(D-Seattle)

COLLEEN WILSON

Sumner chief of police, representative for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs

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