On June 6, 2017, Jay Hoffmeister, a former client of Kafoury & McDougal, stood before lawmakers in Salem in support of House Bill 2712 (HB 2712), which would require domestic violence prevention policies to be adopted by all police departments in Oregon. Memories of the tragic 2010 case in which Sgt. Jeffery Grahn turned a gun on his wife, Charlotte, and her friends Kathleen Hoffmeister and Victoria Schulmerich before taking his own life still haunt Mr. Hoffmeister and his two children. Kelsey Hoffmeister maintains that if the bill had already been in place, her mother would still be alive today. There are currently no requirements for police departments in Oregon to implement policies to prevent domestic violence by officers.
The Grahn’s had an abusive marriage in the time leading up to the incident in February of 2010. Sgt. Grahn had struggled with a history of alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts, and there had been previous allegations of domestic violence, which had been ignored due to intervention by the Clackamas Police Department, where Sgt. Grahn worked. Nine months prior to the murder-suicide, Mrs. Grahn’s sister had even expressed fear to the Clackamas Country Police Department and the that the escalating domestic abuse could end in a murder-suicide.
Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident. Recent studies by the National Center for Women and Policing have found that at least 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence, while only 10% of average American families experience domestic violence. What makes these situations involving police officers and domestic violence even more alarming is that officers are armed, know the location of domestic violence shelters, and are able to manipulate the system to avoid penalty. Victims in these cases fear calling the police, since their case would be handled by colleagues and/or friends of their abusers. In addition, many accusations reported to police departments are typically handled informally, without official reports or proper investigation.
In recent years, lawmakers around the country have recognized the gravity of this issue. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a model policy in response to domestic violence by police officers in 2003. In 2004, Washington State adopted the Brame Bill, named after the Tacoma Police Chief David Brame who killed his wife and took his own life in 2003. This new legislation, which is recognized as one of the best officer-involved domestic violence prevention plans in the country, required law enforcement agencies to work with community-based domestic violence victim advocates to develop policies to address domestic violence by police officers. Other states have developed similar legislation to combat the widespread problem.
If passed, HB 2712 would help significantly reduce officer-involved domestic violence. All law enforcement agencies would be required to adopt a written policy on responding to allegations of domestic violence by law enforcement officers. The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training would formulate a model policy on officer-involved domestic violence which would provide a basis to help agencies formulate their own policies. Furthermore, written policies would be required to meet minimum standards on officer training, investigation practices, internal safeguards, and notification of the District Attorney.
Jason Kafoury also spoke at the public hearing to urge the legislature to pass the bill next session to combat this glaring problem.