Special Reports

Idea ties abuse plan to funding

Lane Judson has a plan for changing how the entire country thinks about domestic violence.

"I didn't even know really what domestic violence was until April 26," Judson said Thursday. April 26 is the day his daughter, Crystal Brame, was shot by her estranged husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame. She died a week later, leaving behind divorce papers full of allegations of abuse suffered at her husband's hands.

Judson has written a three-page description of a proposed change in federal law that would require law enforcement agencies to create domestic violence programs and procedures.

It's got a hammer: Agencies wouldn't get any federal funding if they couldn't show they had an effective domestic violence program. No program, no cash.

Judson has talked to Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) and others about his proposal, and every member of Washington's congressional delegation has a copy under consideration.

National experts in the area of police domestic violence are impressed.

"This is a great idea," said Anne O'Dell, a retired San Diego police officer who is a nationally consulted expert on domestic violence. Judson's proposal needs fine-tuning to become a law, she said, and it will be challenged by states that will claim it's impractical.

But it's worth the battle, she said. "Maybe the fact that he lost a daughter in all of this will make someone sit up and take notice," O'Dell said.

Judson first started thinking about a federal law, which he calls the Crystal Clear Act, as he sat in a Seattle hospital holding his daughter's hand.

"I said, 'Crystal, I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure this doesn't ever, ever, ever happen to anyone again,'" Judson said.

Judson's proposal says that all law enforcement agencies must have a "basic standard" policy on officer-involved domestic violence before they can receive federal funds. Those standards, he wrote, include:

•Education: Judson would like advocacy groups knowledgeable about police domestic violence to create standards for training law-enforcement officers. The annual training should include how to look for early warning signs and lessons on the effects of domestic violence on the community.

•Counseling: Departments need to make sure victims can get counseling and other services. Abusers, too, need counseling and testing to help them change their behavior.

•Safe reporting: Wives of police officers need to be able to report abuse and have it investigated by an independent agency.

This may be the part nearest to Judson's heart. Crystal felt trapped and intimidated in her marriage, Judson said.

"He told Crystal, 'I'm a cop. You're nothing. No one's going to believe anything you say,'" Judson said of David Brame. "Where do you turn to?"

He said Crystal felt particularly trapped after David Brame showed up for a divorce court hearing with three high-ranking friends. "It was like, 'I'm fighting the whole TPD, the whole police department.'"

Renae Griggs, a former police officer who created the National Police Family Violence Prevention Project in Winter Haven, Fla., believes Judson's plan is "creative, innovative."

In the past, police departments were held accountable only through lawsuits by victims and their families - "which has not been wildly successful," she said. Judson's proposal would hit police departments in the pocketbook, she said.

Griggs and O'Dell noted that Judson's proposal isn't a complete answer to the problem of police-involved domestic violence, but it's a good start. And even if lawmakers such as Dicks are on board, it could take years for Judson's proposal, in some form, to become law.

But if it were to become law, Judson pointed out, it could be applied to other local government agencies as well.

In June, Judson and his family filed a $75 million claim against the City of Tacoma, alleging the city is partially responsible for her death because it gave David Brame a position of power and didn't protect Crystal Brame.

If the family receives any money from the city, Judson said, part would be used to raise the Brame children, Haley, 8, and David Jr., 5. The rest would be used to advocate for legislation to end domestic violence, he said.

The children are now being raised by Judson and his wife, Patty, and their daughter, Julie Ahrens, and her husband, David.

Next week a monument will be placed on Crystal Brame's grave. Because she had planned to change her name, it will read, "Crystal D. Judson, loving mom, cherished daughter and sister."

Judson recognizes that his informal proposal is a far cry from a piece of legislation that could be approved by Congress.

"I'm just a dad who lost his daughter, and I'm looking for some help so no one else has to do the same thing," he said.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658