I didn’t always want to be a prosecutor. As a child, I was shy and lacking confidence. I never would have imagined that my career would consist of non-stop public speaking. Life, however, will send you down the right path if you let it. I worked as a legal secretary at a civil litigation firm while a Biology major at the University of California, Irvine. Initially, I had no real interest in the work- I was just trying to pay for rent and tuition. However, I quickly learned that clients were coming to the attorneys for help when they were at their most vulnerable. Helping people was something I could see myself doing.
I entered Seattle University School of Law not knowing what I would do as an attorney; however, that quickly changed on my first day of class. It was taught by a 20-year veteran of the King County Prosecutor’s Office (Seattle, Washington). He spoke about his work with such pride and passion that I could not help but want the same from my career.
My first job out of law school was as a deputy prosecutor in Grays Harbor County (Washington). I was fortunate to learn from career prosecutors who, even after 30 years of trying cases, were still passionate about the work. It was at Grays Harbor that life sent me down yet another path that I wouldn’t have guessed. I started working on Domestic Violence cases and, five years and 50+ trials later, I continue to do so- now, at the City of Seattle as a Firearms Prosecutor with the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit.
My job is to ensure that individuals who have been ordered to surrender their firearms, whether it be as a result of a DV conviction or as a result of the issuance of a protection order, have actually done so. After working on so many Domestic Violence cases prior to taking this position, I saw firsthand the impact that the presence of a firearm has on an already volatile situation. Everyone is at risk. Everyone. In Washington, data shows that 54 percent of perpetrators in Domestic Violence homicides were previously ordered to surrender firearms. We needed to do better to make victims safer. We started with a bare bones pilot program in July 2017. I’m proud to say that, to date, we have collected over 200 firearms, firearms that would still be in the hands of prohibited possessors but for the Firearms Unit.
The Firearms Unit is one of the only units like it in the country. While firearms enforcement is our ultimate goal, our unit does so much more than collect firearms. Our team has advocates and coordinators who assist victims in creating firearm specific safety plans. We also have detectives that, while not out recovering firearms, are an integral part in respondent education. Our detectives have taken the initiative to create an informative video for respondents so that they know how and when to safely surrender their firearms. We have a data tech who ensures that protection orders are timely entered into the database so that they are immediately enforceable, a court order problem solver who- as the name suggests- works on problematic protection orders, and a paralegal who supports all our work.
People who work in any part of the Domestic Violence arena know that the victories feel few and far between. When I was trying cases, a guilty verdict rarely ever felt like a win because the damage had already been done. Victims were already hurt, and the defendants had inflicted irreparable damage to their loved ones and to their future. As a Firearms Prosecutor, I have the opportunity to prevent tragedy. Prosecutors rarely, if ever, get that opportunity and I intend to make the most of it.
Krystle Curley is a firearms prosecutor on the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit in the Seattle city Attorney’s Office. She completed her law degree from Seattle University School of Law. She lives in Seattle.