Special Reports

Crystal bill lawmaker goal

Although it's months before the state Legislature reconvenes, two Pierce County lawmakers already are working on a proposal prompted by Crystal Brame's death.

In the coming session, State Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) and Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) plan to file a bill that would require every law enforcement office in the state to have policies for handling officer-involved domestic violence.

Friday a legislative committee will have its first work session on the issue. Debra Hannula, chairwoman of Tacoma's Crystal Clear Initiative Committee, will speak, as well as others.

The Crystal Clear group was created in response to Crystal Brame's death. Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife in a Gig Harbor parking lot on April 26, then killed himself. In her divorce filings, Crystal Brame said her husband had abused her for years.

Lantz and Regala are members of the Crystal Clear committee and have been working together to learn about police domestic violence. They said they have not yet decided how to write their proposal but that it will be submitted in the House and Senate at the same time.

As with all legislative proposals, there's no guarantee it will become law. In the Legislature, it will face tough scrutiny from all the state's lawmakers as well as state law enforcement organizations.

Lantz and Regala said their proposal will be flexible, allowing the state's various law-enforcement departments to adopt policies that fit them and their constituencies. For example, a policy that worked for the Tacoma Police Department might not be right for a tiny town's police force on the east side of the state.

"We wouldn't have a model policy that (police departments) would have to adopt," Regala said. "We'd (list) minimum things that their policy would need to address and have them develop a policy."

However, there needs to be consistency throughout the state in how to treat law enforcement officers who are involved in abuse, Regala said.

"You have to have some sort of a policy, because if the victim feels like (police) are not going to do anything, then they're not going to report" a domestic violence crime, Regala said.

On the other hand, victims also often don't want to report abuse if it means their spouses will lose their jobs - and under federal law, people found guilty of domestic violence aren't allowed to be law enforcement officers.

"There has to be ... a non-punitive way for dealing with it, in a prevention sort of way, as quickly as possible," Regala said.

Regala and Lantz said that because domestic violence is such a difficult issue to work with, it will take time to work out a proposal that will be effective and acceptable throughout the state.

"This isn't something you can jump into immediately with some fix from on high," Lantz said. "It's not that kind of problem."

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658


How to get involved

The House committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Law will meet from 1:30 to 3:25 p.m. Friday in House Hearing Room C, O'Brien Building, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, to learn about police domestic violence. The meeting is open to the public, although the committee won't take public testimony.