Special Reports

Experts talk cop-related domestic violence

Not all police officers are batterers, a national expert told a crowd of officers Friday. Although sometimes, since Tacoma's chief killed his wife last year, it seems people think that way.

About 130 police officers and others gathered in a Burien auditorium Friday to learn about police-involved domestic violence from two national experts in the field.

"We're not saying all men are batterers, and we're not saying all cops are batterers," said Diane Wetendorf, a Chicago-area domestic violence counselor who has worked with hundreds of victims of abusive officers.

"The first step to making it better in any agency is to admit that it can happen," said Dottie Davis, a Fort Wayne, Ind., police captain who lectures on domestic violence and police policies. "Don't make blatantly stupid statements like, 'I'm 110 percent sure that could never happen in our police agency,'" Davis said.

Davis knew a spokesman for a Puget Sound-area department made a similar statement after Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself nearly a year ago.

Friday's daylong session was organized by the Tacoma Police Department in response to the Brame shootings.

Tacoma police Capt. Tom Strickland worked with Wetendorf and Davis to write the department's new policy on officer-involved domestic violence.

At least 15 Tacoma police officers attended Friday's session. Strickland said he'll train everyone in the department on the subject.

Officers also attended from departments around the Puget Sound area, including Seattle, King and Pierce counties, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bonney Lake and many smaller jurisdictions.

Wetendorf and Davis talked about how officer-involved domestic violence is different from domestic violence in other relationships.

For example, they said, sometimes it's safer for an officer's victim not to flee because fleeing encourages the abuser to track the victim down. And tracking people is something police officers are unusually skilled at.

They also urged attendees to be attuned to signs in their colleagues that might indicate problems with abuse. They said to be careful of officers who:

•Justify questionable behavior by saying, "We put our lives on the line every day."

•Tell people who don't support questionable behavior, "If you can't be there for me, don't even show up."

•Call their spouses foul names.

•Go out of their way to tell colleagues they're a victim.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658