Stephanie Trollen KCPAO Women in Leadership

This Women’s History Month, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is highlighting some of the depth and breadth of women leaders in our office as part of our “Women in Leadership” series. These profiles are only a few of the many amazing women in our office.

Stephanie Trollen, Operations Manager, Juvenile Division.

How long have you worked at the PAO?

Almost 24 years.

What is your role in the PAO?

I manage operations in the Juvenile Division — which is really a combination of multiple roles. I came up in the office a Victim Advocate, so while I manage the operations for the division I always feel a special connection to our victim services section. My head is focused on policy and operations, but my heart is in victim services.

I’ve been back in the Juvenile Division for 12 years, and actually started in the office in this division. I worked in the Criminal Division for many years, but the Juvenile Division really feels like my home.

What were you doing before coming to the PAO?

I volunteered just out of college in the AmeriCorps program and then landed at the YWCA. I worked in a domestic violence shelter doing legal advocacy for survivors — helping them get protection orders, custody, divorces etc. I left that position to come to the PAO.

What are some of your goals in regards to the work you do?

In addition to my policy goals around juvenile justice reform, I believe good ideas come from everywhere in the office. I have a goal to help elevate voices, because the best ideas often come from people who may not be in a role that is traditionally considered a position of influence. I want to eliminate the silos and all the hierarchy that can get in our way.

What are you especially proud of in terms of your work in the Juvenile Division?

I’m especially proud of our criminal justice reform projects that I’ve been lucky to work on. The Family Intervention and Restorative Services (FIRS) program might be the biggest project to date. I vividly remember thinking: “wouldn’t it be amazing if this actually happened?” Jimmy and I argue about who came up with the idea first [laughs] — but whoever came up with the idea (me), he was a huge help in making it happen. It was a massive project; it touches the largest category of cases in Juvenile Court and, now, people from all of the country are interested in it. I believe in it, and it’s been good for families.

In FIRS, we embrace a truly restorative approach. It is victim-centered and gives victims both voice and agency in the way their family is supported by the program. FIRS targets family violence cases, often instances of children displaying aggression in the home. Law enforcement bring these young people to our detention facility but instead of going into detention they go into a respite center which is adjacent to the facility. Every victim gets a social worker assigned to assist them, and every youth gets a juvenile probation counsellor, and they work as a multi-disciplinary staffing team to come up with a plan and solutions for the families. Criminal charges are not the focus; the focus is support and healing for the family.

One big thing on the horizon is Restorative Community Pathways (RCP), which is an idea that came from the community. I’m lucky to be driving the implementation from our office’s side and I’m pretty excited about the chance to support the community’s vision. I think CJ system-based folks sometimes feel like we are the only ones who care about the victims of crime. RCP is an opportunity for the community providers to prove what has always been true — they care as much about the harmed party as we do. The program they are designing shows this — the level of care and concern for the young person who caused harm is matched by the same care and concern for the person who experienced the harm. I feel like this program is going to be a game changer. Stay tuned.

What sort of obstacles have you faced in your field? What was it like dealing with those?

The question does initially resonate in my experience as woman, in that it can be hard to be seen and heard as an expert in your field.

The office has been good to me and afforded me many opportunities, and I realize I am fortunate to get a chance to be at the table. But as a woman, and someone who is not a lawyer, in a law office, it can be tough to be heard. I admit my own insecurities or maybe a splash of imposter syndrome also get in the way. For me, a successful strategy has been to find allies — particularly allies who can have my back in those situations. It also reminds me of the importance of being an ally to my colleagues — especially the ones who are not lawyers.

What advice would you give to other women who are considering a similar career path?

It’s the same advice I give to witnesses going into a defense interviews: keep it short, be nice, and don’t guess. It’s kind of silly, but those three principles have always worked for me. Keep it short — nobody likes an over-talker who uses lots of words. Be nice — you’ll need someone else to do the same when you step in it. Don’t guess — just be curious.

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Catch up with the entire KCPAO Women in Leadership series on our blog at kcprosecutor.medium.com.