Special Reports

If Tacoma follows Chicago's lead, many will be helped

On Page 1 we begin a new chapter in the saga of David Brame and the tragedy he visited on his family and the City of Tacoma.

There you will find Lisa Kremer's report on the nation's model program dealing with cops who control, threaten or beat their wives or girlfriends.

Clearly Tacoma hasn't yet figured out how to deal with domestic violence on the force.

Exhibit A is Chief Brame. Apparently nothing could provoke a domestic-violence inquiry of him. His controlling behavior toward Crystal Brame, known by officers who worked closely with him, wasn't enough. Not even when a few high-ranking officers also knew of the previous allegation that he raped a woman while threatening her with a gun in 1988. Not even the tabloid hints at violence that appeared on the Internet just days before Brame shot his wife and killed himself were sufficient.

Exhibit B is the phenomenally small number of domestic violence allegations brought against Tacoma police each year. As Lisa reports, the number is low not because cops don't abuse their wives here. It's low because victims are afraid to report the problem.

Part of The News Tribune's mission is to investigate every aspect of the Brame story. How he was hired. How he was promoted. Whether he could have been stopped.

But seeking solutions is just as important.

Lisa's report today is the first in a series of articles examining the problems unearthed in our Brame investigation and how Tacoma might move forward. We're calling the series "Beyond Brame."

We're already working on other solution-oriented stories, many of them seeking "best practices" in areas where Tacoma's police department or City Hall seem to have stumbled.

For today's story Lisa interviewed dozens of experts, and quickly focused on a Chicago program that deals with police officers who abuse their wives or girlfriends. (Sometimes it's a woman officer who is the abuser, but that's still rare.)

The accomplishment that sets Chicago's program apart is the confidence victims have that they can safely report abuse and get help for the offending cop.

Getting this issue solved in Tacoma is important. If Tacoma police victims were as willing to come forward as those in Chicago, we'd be helping 10 times the number of them we now help in this city.

Our job is to report on this extraordinary program we've found. It's the city's job to decide whether Tacoma will adopt such a system.

Chicago's experts said two elements are essential. One is a commitment from City Hall to fund and support the program. The other is a commitment by police commanders and cops. The command staff must establish an office that maintains victim secrecy and security. Officers and their union must put victims' interests before their own.

And the policy must apply to every officer, from a probationary patrol officer to the chief.

We'll keep you posted on what happens.

Dave Zeeck 253-597-8434