Special Reports

National experts will help combat law enforcement domestic abuse

Local domestic violence victim advocates soon will receive training on how to help people who are abused by law enforcement officers, the first sessions for workers since last April's Brame shootings.

In March, the YWCA of Pierce County and the Tacoma Police Department will bring in two nationally recognized domestic violence experts - author and lecturer Diane Wetendorf of Chicago and Fort Wayne, Ind., Police Department Capt. Dottie Davis. Victim advocates and law enforcement officers from throughout the state and beyond are expected to attend. The events are not open to the public.

The sessions are a result of the death of Crystal Brame. Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself on April 26. In divorce papers, the Brames had accused each other of domestic violence.

Debra Hannula, director of legal services for the YWCA, organized the training sessions with help from Tacoma Police Lt. Tom Strickland, whose promotion to captain is effective Monday.

The YWCA and the Tacoma Police Department will share the $5,000 cost of the three days of training, Hannula said, plus the two trainers' hotel and air fare. Strickland said the police department's share will come from a federal Violence Against Women Act grant.

Hannula, who heads a group of community leaders that has met regularly since the shootings to look for ways to help people who are abused by law enforcement officers, said "police-perpetrated domestic violence is different." For example, she said, victims often are afraid to call 911 because they think their abuser's friends will answer the phone.

The sessions are:

•A two-day session, March 17-18 at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall, for victim advocates. The session will be taught by Wetendorf, who lectures nationally on police-involved domestic violence and has written papers and created a Web site, www.abuseofpower.info, on the subject. It costs $100.

•A one-day session, March 19 at the Criminal Justice Training Center in Normandy Park, for law enforcement. The session will be led by Davis, director of the academy for the Fort Wayne Police Department. Wetendorf also will speak during the one-day session.

Wetendorf was a victim advocate at a Chicago resource center for 18 years. In 1996 she began a program just for victims of police-involved domestic violence. She said she's worked with 800 to 1,000 victims of police-involved domestic violence from throughout the country.

Davis has led training sessions on police-involved domestic violence since 1996. She and Wetendorf have co-written a paper on police policies regarding abusive officers.

Tacoma Police officers will not be required to attend the March 19 training session, Strickland said, because of staffing issues. But interim Chief Don Ramsdell has encouraged all officers in the department to go if they can, Strickland said.

Aside from the police department, the City of Tacoma is not involved in the training sessions, said Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg, though she said she supports the plan.

Almost 30 people from the YWCA likely will attend the sessions, said Karin White-Tautfest, director of advocacy services.

The City of Tacoma has two advocates and a manager who likely will attend. Ann Eft of the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence is scheduled to speak at the training session, Hannula said.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658


How to get involved

To learn more about the advocate training session, call Debra Hannula at 253-272-4181, ext. 258. To learn about the law-enforcement officer training session, call the Criminal Justice Training Commission at 206-835-7300.