Less than 11 months after Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself, Gov. Gary Locke on Monday signed a law making Washington the first state requiring law enforcement agencies to enact policies for dealing with domestic violence by their own officers.
Brame's wife, Crystal, alleged in divorce papers filed in the months before the April 26 shootings that her husband had abused her for years.
At Monday's signing ceremony at the Tacoma YWCA, Locke said, "Her death left us with sobering and agonizing questions: How could this have happened? And what can we do to prevent it from ever happening again?"
The new law is a big step toward that goal, said state Rep. Patricia Lantz (D-Gig Harbor).
Lantz, sponsor of a bill mirroring the one Locke signed, worked with an ad-hoc committee of about 75 law enforcement, civic and labor leaders, lawyers and domestic violence advocates who spent months putting together the legislation.
"It was an extraordinary effort," Lantz said, "where we can say I think without question that out of the ashes of a horrible, horrific tragedy, a phoenix did rise and it (took) the form of this bill."
Senate Bill 6161 was one of four addressing domestic violence that Locke signed. The ceremony was attended by a host of lawmakers, Tacoma Police interim Chief Don Ramsdell, Mayor Bill Baarsma and City Manager Jim Walton.
The Tacoma Police Department last month adopted its own policy for so-called "officer-involved" domestic violence, which Lantz said is more strict than the requirements in the new law.
Sponsored by Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma), SB 6161 requires law enforcement agencies from the Washington State Police down to the smallest municipal departments to adopt by June 2005 minimum policies for handling police-involved domestic violence.
The requirements include:
•Screening applicants for past involvement - or accusations of involvement - in domestic violence.
•Sharing information on such incidents and accusations with other agencies.
•Telling the person making the domestic violence allegation how the investigation is going.
•Requiring officers to report when one of their own is implicated in a domestic abuse situation.
•Requiring officers to report if they have been or are being investigated for allegations of child abuse or neglect, or if they are the subject of a restraining order.
Though the other three bills signed Monday were not prompted by Crystal Brame's slaying, Lantz said after the ceremony that the shootings spurred the Legislature to act.
"Often times, you make these quantum leaps forward only when you're forced into action," Lantz said, pointing to a $2 million appropriation for domestic violence services included in the budget lawmakers passed this month.
That's a 50 percent boost, said Locke, adding that, "It will help anti-abuse programs across the state meet some 35,000 requests for help that could not be met last year."
Locke said the 54 women who died last year in the state from domestic violence are "the tip of the iceberg."
Domestic abuse is far more common among police officers than in the general population, according to studies like two published in the early 1990s that found at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence.
Locke applauded the new laws, their sponsors and others who worked on them.
However, he said, "The strongest laws and unlimited funding will not prevent domestic violence or protect its victims unless we are all committed to changing the values and attitudes in our culture that allow this violence to flourish."
Kenneth P. Vogel: 360-754-6093