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Sheriff’s domestic violence policy takes effect

Following the death of Crystal Brame, Washington law enforcement agencies — including the Island County Sheriff’s Office — are developing policies to prevent similar tragedies.

On April 26, 2003, Crystal Brame was shot in a parking lot by her husband, David Brame, chief of police for the city of Tacoma. David Brame committed suicide at the scene, and Crystal Brame died one week later.

Following state legislation signed into law in February 2004, every law enforcement agency in the state is required have an officer-involved domestic violence policy completed by the end of 2005.

According to Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley, the sheriff’s office is ahead of schedule. He is in the process of explaining the new policy to the office’s employees in the jail, Camano and North and South Whidbey precincts. Recently completed, the four-page policy will go into effect Feb. 1.

“We don’t want to be in a position where officers are covering up instances of domestic violence among ourselves,” he said.

When responding to employee-related domestic violence calls, deputies will perform several duties, according to Hawley. In addition to securing the scene, deputies will immediately request assistance from an outside agency to take over the lead in the investigation.

Deputies and supervisors will also obtain medical attention, address the immediate and future safety of the victim, perform an unbiased investigation, notify Children’s Protective Services if children are involved, attempt to locate the accused if he or she has left the scene, and write supplemental reports detailing the incident and their observations.

If they are the suspect in the investigation, sheriff’s personnel — including deputies, supervisors, volunteers reserves and explorers — will be subject to an “in-house” criminal investigation.

According to the policy, whenever an employee is arrested inside or outside Island County they will be placed on temporary administrative leave pending review by the sheriff. The accused employee will also be relieved of all department owned firearms, personal firearms if they were used in the commission of the crime, or those voluntarily relinquished by the employee.

According Hawley, officers often have more to loose in a domestic violence situation because of the restrictions that can be placed on them following an incident. In addition to losing the right to carry a firearm, officers can lose their jobs if convicted of domestic violence. The Island County Sheriff’s policy states any deputy convicted of domestic violence will be dismissed from the department.

Hawley said the policy will pull the curtains back to allow people to see the actions of the sheriff’s office.

“We’re going to try and always do it that way,” he said.

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