Special Reports

Brame bill dies in House

WASHINGTON – A House committee blocked an effort Wednesday to require the Justice Department to launch a detailed study of domestic violence involving law enforcement officers.

Washington lawmakers had argued the study was needed because of cases like that of the late Tacoma Police Chief David Brame.

The House Rules Committee also rejected an amendment the state’s lawmakers sought that would have clarified that police could use certain federal grants to prevent, identify and respond to crimes against women by law enforcement officials.

Both amendments to the Department of Justice Authorization Act were ruled out of order. The committee decides which bills come to the House floor and what amendments can be brought up.

The amendments were offered by Democratic Reps. Adam Smith of Tacoma and Norm Dicks of Belfair. Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Bellevue, a former King County sheriff, joined in offering one of the amendments.

The lawmakers said they were disappointed their proposals weren’t even considered.

Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, in April 2003 while their two young children sat in a car nearby. He then killed himself.

“The bottom line in this case is that the Tacoma Police Department did not have a strong and enforceable policy to address domestic violence committed by a member of the police force,” Dicks said in a statement inserted in the Congressional Record.

“And this was not a deficiency exclusive to Tacoma.”

Smith said law enforcement agencies were “taking this matter seriously” but more needed to be done.

“I am disappointed that I – along with several of my colleagues from Washington state – were not able to offer two amendments that sought to address this issue,” Smith also said in a statement for the Congressional Record.

Smith said little research had been done on the issue of domestic violence involving law enforcement officers. A Justice Department study could “provide policymakers with critical facts and information” as they try to address the issue, he said.

Instead of a Justice Department study, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), said the Government Accountability Office would investigate.

The other amendment would have clarified that Services, Training, Officers and Prosecution program grants could be used by law enforcement agencies to develop policies on domestic abuse by their officers.

Les Blumenthal: 202-383-0008