Special Reports

State Senate approves policies on police domestic violence

Police departments around the state would be required to adopt policies on dealing with domestic violence complaints against their officers if a bill inspired by last year's Brame scandal in Tacoma becomes law.

The state Senate approved the bill unanimously Tuesday.

"The purpose of this is to try to make sure there is trust built in between domestic violence victims and our police," said Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma). "Our state is being watched. We have an opportunity to be a leader on this very important issue."

Domestic violence by police took center stage in Washington after Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally wounded his wife and killed himself last year. The shooting took place in front of the couple's young children.

Senate Bill 6161 calls for a uniform policy on officer-related abuse that would be crafted by the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and victims groups.

The policy must include:

•Screening job applicants for past complaints, convictions or restraining orders for domestic violence.

•Mandatory self-reporting by an officer of domestic violence complaints or investigations about him or her.

•Prompt and impartial investigations of allegations of domestic violence.

•Requiring agencies to immediately notify an officer's employer about allegations of domestic violence against the officer.

By June 1, 2005, every law enforcement agency would be required to adopt either the model policy or a similar policy of its own design. Officers would need to be trained in the policy by June 30, 2006.

The new law has broad support from victims groups, which applauded provisions requiring their input.

"There needs to be a policy in place, steps that need to be followed when a law enforcement officer is called to a scene and it's one of his colleagues," said Grace Huang, public policy coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Police groups also applauded the measure.

"Police officers are held to a higher standard on this issue because we are part of the process," said Bill Hanson, executive director of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs. "Because we're part of the system, we want the public to have confidence and we want victims to have confidence to come forward when there's a problem."

The bill now goes to the House.