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Sunday, April 26, 2009

[WA] Learn from Tacoma's tragedy. The case that inspired me to track police domestic violence

Crystal DeEtte Judson Brame
and her husband,
Tacoma Police Chief David Brame

On April 26th, 2003, it came out in our local paper that the city would NOT investigate the domestic violence accusations made against our Tacoma Police Chief David Brame by his wife Crystal.

By the afternoon of the same day, both of them were fatally shot in a parking lot with their very young children running to them.

CITY WON'T INVESTIGATE POLICE CHIEF
The News Tribune
Stacey Mulick
April 26th, 2003
[EXCERPTS] Tacoma city officials will not investigate allegations of abuse raised in Tacoma Police Chief David A. Brame's now public divorce. Brame's wife, Crystal, made the accusations in a declaration filed as part of the divorce, which she started in February after more than 11 years of marriage... Friday, the couple's allegations against each other were publicized by a Seattle newspaper, television and radio stations. Asked about Brame, City Manager Ray Corpuz said, "I'm not interested in investigating any civil proceedings that he is going though at this time... There haven't been any discussions (about an investigation) or complaints from within the department." Mayor Bill Baarsma said he did not want to comment on Brame's personal life, but added, "The professional end of Dave's relationship with the city has been absolutely stellar"... In a declaration filed March 26, Crystal Brame alleged her husband pointed his gun at her and said, "Accidents happen." She also claimed he choked her and threatened to kill her at their Gig Harbor home. In a declaration filed in April, Brame denied he pointed his gun at his wife, choked her or threatened her...

The next day:

A POLICE CHIEF'S INCOMPREHENSIBLE, BEWILDERING CRIME

The News Tribune
April 27th, 2003
"Shock" hardly begins to express our reaction to David Brame's shooting of his wife, Crystal, and his own suicide Saturday afternoon. Almost anyone who knew the Tacoma police chief professionally - and that includes the editorial board of The News Tribune - would have, before Saturday, vouched for his character, his devotion to police work and his concern for the city he served. Brame exuded competence. He was good at dealing with people... No one then could have imagined Saturday's horrifying sequel, when Brame shot his wife and then himself in the parking lot of a Gig Harbor strip mall - with their children at the scene... The waste of life, the trauma to their children, the grief of their loved ones, are almost too terrible to contemplate...


=================================

BEFORE THE SHOOTING Tacoma did not have an officer-involved domestic violence policy - so city officials were winging it, the human resources department and city attorneys were trying to cover their own butts and the chief's at the same time. Police brass had been trying to cover for the chief's behaviors prior to the shooting, and because he was a superior, many subordinate personnel made decisions that would be an embarrassment to the city when the investigations later brought all their activities and discretionary choices to light.

IN THE MEANTIME NO ONE FROM THE CITY OR THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFERED CRYSTAL SAFETY OR OPTIONS. NO ONE CALLED TO ASK HOW SHE WAS OR TO OFFER HER A SAFE PLACE. SHE WAS INCIDENTAL TO HIS MIGHTY POSITION.

Every law enforcement agency needs to have a specific and effective officer-involved domestic violence policy IN PLACE BEFORE tragedy hits.

Tacoma has one now. And now every law enforcement agency in the State of Washington is required to have a specific policy in place.

Two lives were lost that a policy could have possibly saved, Tacoma was cast into a parade of both multi-million dollar lawsuits and multi-agency investigations. A STUPID choice to not investigate turned into a scandal that was circulated around the WORLD.

Why would an agency resist having clear protocol?



Every area should have a safe line for victims of police and public official domestic violence to call.

Tacoma still doesn't have one.
No city, county, or area of the world does.

It's a gaping omission.

Too often everyone runs to the officer to see him through, and no one, including local domestic violence services, help the victim - It's too risky, "too political," and often seen as a threat to their county and city funding. They don't reach out to these victims. Often they back away. One local shelter told one of our officer-involved victims that they were not "equipped" for her kind of case.

If you are a victim of officer-involved domestic violence though, don't give up. Contact me and I will do my best to put you in touch with someone to talk to. No one has the solutions but maybe some brainstorming with people who "GET IT" will help more than you can imagine.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it on this blog before - but I was married to a Seattle police officer. Crystal's shooting cut me to the core. I knew the fear.

And if you ARE in fear, I want to share with you that Lori DeKleine, slain by her police officer husband, came to this blog and read stories here. She never contacted me.

She told her sister about this site but never reached out.

I'll always wonder...


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