2005-10-31 02:08:27 UTC
By MATTHEW DALY
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
WASHINGTON -- As his daughter lay dying, Lane Judson promised her he
would do something about the often hidden problem of family violence
committed by police.
Crystal Judson Brame, was shot and killed by her estranged husband,
Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who then killed himself.
The April 2003 shootings shook the state and led to a new law requiring
Washington police agencies to adopt tough policies regarding domestic
violence among their officers.
Now Judson wants Congress to adopt a similar law nationwide - a quest
that so far has been a tortuous education in how slow Congress can be.
But even as he and his wife Patty send stacks of letters urging
lawmakers to back their efforts, Judson remains upbeat - convinced the
couple's 2 1/2-year crusade will ultimately succeed.
"I am so optimistic something good is going to come out of this," the
70-year-old Judson said in an interview from his home in Gig Harbor.
"It just has to."
The up-and-down course of the legislation - which Judson originally
dubbed the Crystal Clear Act - was back on the upswing this month, as
the state's congressional delegation again pushed for a Justice
Department study of domestic violence programs that law enforcement
agencies provide for their officers.
In a letter signed by 10 of the state's 11 members of Congress,
Washington lawmakers urged leaders of the House and Senate judiciary
committees to back a federal study they said might help prevent
tragedies like that of Crystal Judson Brame.
The letter also encourages police departments to develop policies based
on a model created by the International Association of Chiefs of
The study is a far cry from Lane Judson's first impulse: to withhold
federal money from police departments that don't have effective
policies dealing with domestic violence by their officers.
Judson, a retired Boeing manager, gave up on that idea after local
members of Congress, including Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks and Jay
Inslee and Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, convinced him that a proposal
to cut police funding was unlikely to succeed.
"Whatever they come up with, I support 100 percent, because it's a step
in the right direction," Judson said.
Reichert, a former King County sheriff, said it should come as no
surprise that some police officers commit domestic violence.
"These are people that we hire from the human race, so a certain
percentage will be prone to domestic violence," Reichert said. "The
twist is that police officers are people in authority. They carry a
badge and a gun, and I truly believe it is more difficult for victims -
and 90 percent of the time it's females - to come forward," Reichert
Penny Harrington, a former Portland, Ore., police chief who helped
found the National Center for Women and Policing, an advocacy group
that seeks more women at all ranks of law enforcement, agreed.
Harrington said the Brame case highlights the dangers of police family
violence. Like David Brame, most police officers have access to weapons
and know how to use them, Harrington said.
"All too frequently, it escalates into a fatal situation," she said.
Many officers also know where domestic violence shelters are and may
have access to police computers that make it easier to track a woman
down, said Harrington.
While exact statistics don't exist, Harrington said two studies
indicate that as many as 40 percent of police families experience
domestic violence or abuse - four times the rate of the general
"Police hate to investigate their brother officers," Harrington said.
"That's part of the problem. Families are afraid to report, and they
are afraid that nothing will be done if they do report it."
The International Association of Chiefs of Police created its model
policy two years ago so departments large and small can develop their
own guidelines, said Gene Voegtlin, a spokesman for the Virginia-based
police chiefs group. Voegtlin declined to comment on the figures cited
"The question of domestic violence by police officers obviously is a
critical one, and one we care about."
Voegtlin said he was not sure how many of the nation's 14,000
municipal, county and state police agencies have policies on domestic
violence, but said anecdotal evidence indicates the number is
A survey of 123 police agencies conducted in the 1990s indicated that
fewer than half had such policies.
That could change as a result of the Brame case, Washington lawmakers
say - if for no other reason than self-protection, as local officials
ponder potentially huge liability in the event of a similar tragedy.
Last month, the city of Tacoma approved a $12 million payment and other
provisions to settle a lawsuit filed by the Judson family. The suit
claimed, among other things, that city officials never investigated
allegations that Brame abused his wife; did not protect her despite
repeated complaints; and promoted Brame despite a failed psychological
examination and a rape claim against him.
"The city took a bath on this," said George Behan, chief of staff to
Rep. Dicks. "The emperor had no clothes, because they could not claim
they were ignorant of the case."
The Judsons live in Dicks' district and have worked closely with him on
the police bill.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, who represents Tacoma, said Lane Judson was
"doing an outstanding job of shining a light on a very important
The Brame case shows the need to make sure police departments are aware
of abuse that goes on in their departments and are prepared to prevent
it or stop it once it starts, Smith said.
Judson often recalls his hospital promise to his daughter, as he and
other family members press their campaign for a federal law.
Crystal, 35, couldn't talk, but the family knew she could hear.
"She would squeeze my hand. I told her, 'Crystal, I will do everything
I can so this won't happen again,'" Judson said.
After Crystal died, Judson said he thought there was less than a 5
percent chance that Congress would do something. He now puts the odds
"My goal is to make sure that no one ever feels like Crystal, with
nowhere to turn," he said. "It's starting to become a reality."
Which black ops loses his job in early Jan. 2006???