Accountability a big part of our watchdog role

EXECUTIVE EDITORApril 21, 2013 

It has been a sad week across the country with news stories that have weighed on all of us.

Today’s front page begins a package of stories that bring back painful memories of another difficult time in our own community’s history — the David Brame shootings of a decade ago. In fact, some people may wish we had let the anniversary pass without notice.

But we cover it today for the same reason we covered it day after day after day in 2003 — when we also heard from people wishing we’d just let it go.

David Brame alone pulled the trigger of a gun that fatally injured his wife, Crystal, and then himself. But the investigations that followed the shootings, including our own, found serious problems with the culture and management of the Tacoma Police Department and city government and with the coordination of services for victims of domestic violence.

From those investigations came recommendations, promises and court orders for improvements. We created a checklist at the time to help us monitor progress on those reforms.

The last time we published it, in 2007, a number of items remained undone. After 10 years, we are taking another look.

Holding officials accountable is central to our watchdog role. It was then. It is now.

As you can see from Stacey Mulick’s reporting, the bulk of the recommendations have been fulfilled.

The Tacoma Police Department obtained national accreditation that required, in part, an early warning system to spot problem officers and get them counseling or training. The city now has an independent ethics board to handle conflict-of-interest complaints about City Council members. The Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, while not a perfect solution to the problems facing victims of domestic violence, has helped coordinate services for thousands of victims each year since it opened in 2005.

But the most prominent justification for writing again about the tragedy that befell a family and a community 10 years ago comes from between the lines of Sean Robinson’s story on Page One.

A number of people around David Brame knew he was melting down and knew his wife was afraid for her life. No one stepped in to remove him from his position of power or to take away his gun.

In the immediate aftermath of Judson’s death, our community was on heightened alert for signs of domestic violence among our own family members and friends.

As Pierce County Councilman Rick Talbert, chairman of the Family Justice Center board of directors, says in our story today: We need to remember Crystal Judson.

Her memory reminds us we all have a duty to speak up — and maybe stand up — to try to prevent an act of domestic violence.

Karen Peterson is the executive editor of The News Tribune. She can be reached at 253-597-8434 or karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com.

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