Special Reports

Cop abuse policies ready

Tacoma police officials on Thursday will release the new policy on officer-involved domestic violence they've been working on for nine months, since Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself.

The policy contains several provisions that are a direct result of the Brame shootings.

It dictates that police employees will be disciplined if they learn a coworker is involved in domestic violence and they don't report it. It bars employees from going to family court proceedings with fellow employees unless subpoenaed or ordered to appear. And in four places, it lists specific procedures to follow if the police chief is a domestic violence suspect.

Writers of the policy traced the history of David Brame's career through the Tacoma Police Department, looking for occasions that should have indicated his volatile personality, said Capt. Tom Strickland, the primary author. They wrote the policy specifically to address those instances, he said.

The policy also incorporates ideas Strickland gleaned from reading approximately 60 domestic violence policies from across the country; interviewing police experts, victim's advocates, lawyers and others; and enrolling in classes on domestic violence and policy writing.

"The policy is a good policy and will help the department," said Pat Frantz, president of Local 6 of the International Union of Police Associations, the union representing Tacoma's police officers, detectives and sergeants. "The policy tries to head off problems before they start."

Lane Judson, Crystal Brame's father, said he hadn't had a chance to study the policy.

"We applaud any meaningful effort that prevents domestic violence, and appreciate all genuine efforts in that regard," he said through a family spokesman.

The new policy

Strickland had help researching the policy from the Task Force on Officer-Involved Domestic Violence, a group of more than 70 local leaders.

Tacoma police's former policy was three paragraphs long, and didn't address victim safety. The new policy is 16 pages and creates a new position called "family violence coordinator," mandates employee training on victim safety and creates a new training class for family members of department employees.

It has five sections:

•Assisting victims: Victim information shall be kept confidential. Department employees will be trained to recognize signs of abuse.

All department employees should have as little contact as possible with victims. That's because it lessens the chance that an employee's friends will intimidate a victim, Strickland said.

The "victims" section also includes the family court provision.

That section is in the policy because in April, Brame requested three police officials accompany him to a divorce hearing. Crystal Brame's family said their appearance was intimidating to her and made her feel the entire department was against her.

In November, the episode was described by Attorney General Christine Gregoire as an example of "what not to do" because it makes the victim feel helpless.

•Preventing employee-involved domestic violence: This section has some of the most dramatic new provisions, including an academy to help family members, and mandatory training on and reporting of domestic violence by employees.

That section, too, is a direct result of Brame. In the months after the shootings, it became clear that some department employees knew Crystal and David Brame had accused each other of domestic violence, but had not reported those allegations.

•Job applicants: Police job applicants already are subject to a rigorous exam process, but the new policy specifies that examiners look for "traits that have to do with domestic violence," Strickland said.

That's another Brame-related section: After the shootings it was discovered Brame had failed a pre-hiring psychological exam.

•Responding to 911 calls: A detailed section on protocol, it specifies that if the chief is arrested, the city manager, city attorney and director of human resources shall be notified.

The section also creates a new job called family violence coordinator. Strickland said he will hold the job in addition to being the department's training coordinator.

•Investigating employee-related domestic violence: The department can, if warranted, take away an officer's gun if there's an allegation of domestic violence against him or her. In addition, the section stipulates that employees who don't report domestic violence or who interfere with an investigation or intimidate a victim will be investigated and disciplined as well.

Strickland learned that victims of domestic violence are most at risk when they leave their abusers, or when their abusers lose their jobs. The policy specifies that if an employee is to lose his or her job because of domestic violence, the victim will be alerted first.

The policy doesn't specify discipline. If an employee is found to have violated the policy, the chief will decide what discipline to use, Strickland said.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is using Tacoma's policy to develop a model policy for all its member agencies. The association has voted that all 200-plus agencies shall adopt the model policy or write a new one, said Sumner Police Chief Colleen Wilson.

And a proposed state law would require all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt such a policy. The proposal was approved unanimously in the state Senate and is scheduled for debate in the House today.

Staff writer Stacey Mulick contributed to this report.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658



What's next

4:30 p.m. Thursday: Tacoma police officials will present their policy on officer-involved domestic violence to the council's Public Safety & Human Services Committee in Council Chambers, City Hall, 747 Market St. The session is open to the public. The meeting is advisory; council approval is not needed to enact the policy.


A closer look: 10 provisions of the policy. A7

Policy includes professional help, better reporting

Provisions of the Tacoma Police Department's new policy on employee-involved domestic violence:

• Create a new "academy" for employees and their families.

• A new family violence coordinator to help victims get professional help.

• Employees must report signs of domestic violence in others.

• Mandatory training on employee-involved domestic violence.

• Employees who ask for help with their own violence problems will not be punished.

• Any allegations involving the chief will be reported to the city manager, the city attorney and the director of human resources.

• If an employee is to be fired because of domestic violence, the victim will be told first, for his or her safety.

• Superiors may decide to take badge and gun from an employee being investigated.

• Potential hires will be evaluated for domestic violence warning signs.

• Employees shall not go to family court with coworkers.