Special Reports

Domestic violence services increased

The City of Tacoma is stepping up services for domestic violence victims after budget cuts nearly four years ago significantly reduced such help.

In the coming weeks, the city will sponsor domestic violence seminars, open to all employees.

The city also plans to hire a new half-time victims advocate to help with a mounting number of cries for help since Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, then killed himself April 26.

City officials also may implement new training for police and their domestic partners to combat violence at home, but that's still in the planning stages.

Acting city manager Jim Walton said confronting domestic violence is a priority for the city.

"All of us need to be aware of, and have skills to respond to, domestic violence," Walton said in his weekly newsletter.

The city's latest initiatives are the first steps in responding to needs in the community, said John Briehl, director of Tacoma's human rights and human services department.

"We've seen an increase - I'd call it a significant increase - in the number of domestic violence calls since April 26," Briehl said.

China Fortson, the city's full-time victims' advocate, normally sees 800 victims per year.

Since late April, the number of incoming calls has increased by 25 to 30 percent per week, she said.

"Women are feeling uncertain," Fortson said Friday afternoon, as she was helping women relocate to safety.

"We're having to reassure them that not all police are like David Brame, that there are good police out there."

Briehl said he and others still are figuring out how to pay for the half-time help for Fortson, whose job is paid by city funds and a grant.

But one critic on Friday said the city's efforts are too little.

Marguerite McCann, the city's first victims' advocate, who started the program in 1987 and worked until 1998, said the city at one time combated domestic violence with four detectives, three advocates, a police sergeant and two patrol officers, who served antiharassment and protection orders.

Now, the city mainly relies on the work of one advocate, a domestic violence attorney and police.

"They're going to throw a half-time employee at this?" McCann asked.

"This just makes me so mad. They're trying to scramble and put their fingers in the dike.

"What we had 10, 15 years ago worked, and they did away with it."

The city's latest efforts stem from a City Council directive following the Brame shootings.

The council asked the human rights and human services department to draft an action plan that involved city and county services.

Briehl said he's expecting more initiatives to follow. He plans to give a progress report to the council later this month.

"We were anxious to move on this. It seems like the prudent thing to do," he said.

Domestic violence training sessions for city employees are set for June 27 and 30.

Representatives from the prosecuting attorney's office, municipal court, police, YWCA and the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence will help with training.

The voluntary meetings will cover the dynamics of domestic and workplace violence, community resources and legal options.

Two additional employee meetings are planned for next month.

Martha Modeen: 253-597-8646

martha.modeen@mail.tribnet.com

How to get help

In any emergency or to report a crime, first call 911.

• Pierce County Domestic Violence Helpline: 253-798-4166 or 800-764-2420 or TDD: 253-798-6050 (24-hour resource line)

• City of Tacoma Domestic Violence Advocate: 253-591-5164

• The News Tribune's coverage of the David Brame scandal is available at www.tribnet.com /brame.

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