The promises

March 18, 2007 

Tacoma made several promises to the family of Crystal Judson to settle a $75 million lawsuit in the fall of 2005. The lawsuit stemmed from Judson’s death in May 2003 after she was shot by her estranged husband, Police Chief David Brame. Along with a monetary settlement, the city agreed to pursue changes in policies and procedures. City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli detailed Tacoma’s compliance in a recent memo to the City Council. Here’s an accounting of the major pieces.

The promise: Payment of $12 million to the Judson family

How: The City Council approved payment on Sept. 13, 2005. The city paid $1 million; $11 million came from insurance.

The promise: Change the name of the Tacoma-Pierce County Family Justice Center to the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center. Put the full name of the center on interior and exterior signs, logos, letterhead, stationery and seals.

The promise: The mayor and the city manager will sign a letter of regret containing specific language to the family.

How: Mayor Bill Baarsma and City Manager Eric Anderson signed a letter on Nov. 8, 2005, “expressing deep regret” to Crystal’s family for her death. The letter said the city was “committed to actions, policies and changes which are aimed at preventing similar tragedies from occurring again.”

The promise: Designate April 26 of each year as Domestic Violence Awareness Day in Tacoma

How: The City Council approved a resolution to that effect on Dec. 16, 2005.

The promise: Support Washington State Senate Bill 6161 and comparable federal legislation

How: Mayor Baarsma testified in support of the bill, which was passed in 2004 and signed into law by then-Gov. Gary Locke. The law requires law enforcement agencies to enact training and policies regarding domestic violence by officers.

The promise: The City of Tacoma will continue to make reasonable efforts regarding review and improvement of its code of ethics.

How: The City Council established an ethics board in June 2006 and appointed members to the panel in February.

The promise: Install a permanent plaque reading: “The Family Justice Center is dedicated to the memory of Crystal Judson and other victims of domestic violence. Crystal Judson was fatally shot on April 26, 2003, by her estranged husband, the Chief of Police of Tacoma”

How: An 8-inch-by-10-inch plaque installed in the center’s lobby reads: “Crystal Judson Family Justice Center – Dedicated to the memory of Crystal Judson – May all who walk through these doors find strength, courage, and hope.”

The promise: The Tacoma Police Department will continue to make reasonable efforts at accreditation by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

How: The association no longer accredits police departments, but Tacoma police leaders are working with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. A project to review and revise department functions is under way, city officials say, and full accreditation is expected by the end of 2009.

The Promise: The city will continue to make reasonable efforts to implement the recommendations in a sweeping 2001 performance audit of the department by Carroll Buracker & Associates.

How’s that? Chief Don Ramsdell is implementing a strategic plan that “exceeds” the Buracker recommendations, the city says. Progress toward implementing the recommendations was noted in memos dated in March and August 2005, according to Pauli’s summary of the settlement terms. A News Tribune request for copies of some of those summaries is pending.

The Promise: The city will make reasonable efforts to “determine, establish and implement policies” on psychological screening of police recruits and fitness-for-duty evaluations of officers.

How: Police now use a character-based hiring process that includes testing and psychological exams. A comprehensive policy on fitness-for-duty evaluations is being written and should be completed in June, according to Pauli’s memo.

The Promise: The city will return all personal photographs, videotapes and other personal items from the case.

How’s that? The City Attorney’s Office is still working with the Judsons’ attorneys on this issue.

The promise: Dedicate a page to Crystal Judson on the justice center’s Web site

How’s that? The Web site is under construction, justice center director Susan Adams said. Plans call for a page dedicated to Crystal.

The Promise: The city will make reasonable efforts to implement a citizens police oversight committee.

How’s that? City Council members approved an ordinance formally establishing the police Citizen Review Panel on Feb. 20. Five residents have been appointed to the committee. City Manager Anderson says the “policy advisory board” will improve police accountability and build trust in the department. Police union contracts prevent the committee from assessing and ruling on individual complaints against officers, Anderson said. Critics complain that’s not true oversight and point out the city never did establish an independent auditor’s office recommended by the Human Rights Commission.

The Promise: The city will continue to make reasonable efforts to implement the recommendations of the WASPC Citizens Advisory Panel.

How’s that? The city says “all applicable recommendations” have been fulfilled and points to an April 4, 2005, memo from Police Chief Don Ramsdell to then-City Manager Jim Walton detailing the city’s compliance. Ginny Eberhardt, a citizen activist who co-chaired the advisory panel, complained “the city made it sound like everything was hunky-dory” and then diluted the intentions of the group.

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