Supreme Court: Police failed to protect domestic violence victim

FEDERAL WAY -- A woman's life could have been saved if police had done their duty to protect victims of domestic violence.

That’s the ruling from the state Supreme Court after a Federal Way woman was killed by her abusive partner.

In 2008, Baerbel Roznowski filed an anti-harassment order to have her boyfriend removed from her Federal Way home. But the officer who served that order didn't make sure her boyfriend left, and the boyfriend ended up stabbing her to death.

“It was really disappointing. It pointed to places where our systems did fail,” said Grace Huang, works with domestic violence victims.

She said that when women make the decision to get out of an abusive relationship, they have a right to expect law enforcement will help.

“She wanted to have him removed from her house, his things removed from her house,” she said about the Federal Way case. “Law enforcement is charged under our state law to assist in service of these orders because there is an increased risk of violence.”

Roznowski`s daughters filed suit against the city. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled in their favor, saying the city failed in their ‘duty to act.'

“The court said if there's danger of violence in this situation, you have to take that seriously and make sure as best you can that the person is safe,” said Doug Honig of the ACLU.

The Federal Way police chief says the department is constantly reviewing their practices, and this decision provides clear guidance moving forward.

Chief Brian Wilson released a statement that read in part: “It appears the Supreme Court has addressed the heart of the matter and has clearly articulated the duty of a police officer when serving domestic violence and non-domestic violence orders.”

Huang knows officers will still face challenges when responding to domestic violence situations.

“Agencies are strapped, short on resources, not enough officers and there needs to be more training.”

But she hopes we've learned how to prevent another tragedy like this from happening.

“I think it's the reminder that we have to be vigilant and make sure these cases are taken seriously, the danger people face need to be taken seriously.”

Paul Chan Kim pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder. He’s currently serving a 20-year sentence.