Special Reports

Police examine domestic violence at seminars

Dozens of police officers from throughout the state converged on Tacoma this week to learn how to deal with the crime of domestic violence.

The two one-day seminars had been planned for months - long before Tacoma Police Chief David Brame killed his wife and himself in April, ending what subsequent investigation has shown to be a violent relationship.

Though the discussion was wide-ranging, Brame's influence loomed over the hall.

At one point, lecturer Mark Wynn talked about some expensive lawsuits police departments have lost because they didn't have clear policies directing officers how to respond to domestic violence calls. His examples were suits in which departments had to pay $1.5 million and $2 million.

"Try a lawsuit for $75 million," someone in the audience muttered, audibly enough to be heard several rows away. That's the amount of the claim Crystal Brame's family has filed against the City of Tacoma, saying the city is partially responsible for her death because David Brame should never have been hired or promoted.

Wynn, a former Nashville officer, also talked about cases in which the abuser in a relationship is a police officer.

The City of New York once lost $2 million over a case in which officers refused to arrest a fellow officer who was abusing his wife, Wynn said.

"They told her, 'We don't arrest our own,'" Wynn said. "These double standards obviously don't work."

Police departments need to develop detailed policies on officer-involved domestic violence, Wynn said, and give their officers specific training on how to handle such cases.

In Nashville, he said, "we had a special unit that would go out and investigate officer-involved domestic violence. ... We actually send specialized investigators immediately to the scene."

Tacoma Police assistant chief Bill Meeks and Capt. Charles Meinema attended the lecture. They said they were pleased that not only did officers of all ranks attend, but also domestic violence advocates, litigators, and City Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg.

Domestic violence, Meeks said, has "always been a problem in law enforcement. We're not immune from it," just as other professions aren't immune, he said.

Meeks said Wynn was correct that departments need policies for dealing with officers who may be abusers.

"We've always had policies," he said. "Certainly, after this happened, we're going to go back and review them again."

The seminars were held Wednesday and Thursday in an auditorium at Tacoma Community College. They were sponsored by the Tacoma department, which paid for them with a federal grant.

Lisa Kremer: 253-597-8658