Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Thursday, May 06, 2004  

Law: Fallout from Brame murder limited

One of the frustrations of being interested in civil rights issues is that one can go for years without seeing much improvement in aspects of society that hurt people. Domestic violence has long been such a backwater. There were some meaningful reforms during the 1980s and 1990s as more Americans became aware of how dismissive of the complaints of victims the police and legal system had been. Now, in many jurisdictions, it is no longer necessary that a victim be willing to testify against the accused for a domestic violence case to go forward. That reform was necessary because abused women are often afraid to have the abuser prosecuted after making the initial accusation. In a high profile example, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston's husband, recently learned that he will not be able to evade his day in court for assaulting her because the two are now presenting a united front.

One of the remaining weak links in stopping domestic violence is the police themselves. Studies have shown that police departments often attract men with anger control problems of their own. Furthermore, police families tend to fall into a pattern of male dominance and female submissiveness. That is bad news for domestic abuse victims who welcome such officers to their doors when they have been beaten because the policemen do not sympathize with them. It is even worst news for the abused wives of such policemen. We learned about that in an awful way last year, when the top cop in Tacoma, Washington, pulled the covers off a usually hidden problem. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been following the story.

Let's revisit the facts.

Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, then killed himself in a Gig Harbor parking lot on April 26, 2003, as their two young children watched.

A report by the state patrol was presented to the mayor and other city officials this week. A previous investigation by the city itself claimed that neither it nor its officials are responsible for the murder and suicide.

The state's administrative investigation, which was agreed to by city leaders, followed a six-month state criminal investigation that concluded no crimes were committed by employees of the city or the police department in the Brame case. The administrative review focused on whether employees violated city or department policies, including those on sexual harassment.

The state's investigation was expected to be more objective.

The patrol was looking into whether promotions were given out based on alleged participation in sex clubs, as well as the alleged practice of looking the other way when local big shots were suspected of wrongdoing. Former State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas said earlier that department culture put rank-and-file cops in a position where "they see corruption running rampant and they just lay low."

The administrative review also was to examine the failure by city leaders to act on Brame's deterioration as his marriage came apart, his preoccupation with sex and sexual topics, his 1981 hiring despite two psychological profiles that indicated he was ill-suited to the work, and his rise through the ranks despite a 1988 rape allegation.

In the fallout over the shooting, Assistant Police Chief Catherine Woodard, who was close to Brame, took disability retirement and City Manager Ray Corpuz Jr., who appointed him, lost his job.

The city has refused to release the report to the public.

Nearly a year ago, the family of Crystal Brame (pictured above) brought a lawsuit against the city of Tacoma and the officials who allowed a culture of favoritism, sexual harrasment and crime among government employees to flourish there. KIRO reports.

Relatives of Crystal Brame, alleging that Tacoma officials ignored danger signs about her estranged husband, Police Chief David Brame, before he shot her and himself to death, on Monday filed a $75 million claim against the city.

The claim filed with the City Clerk's Office alleges the city failed to respond to "several pieces of information that should have triggered actions to protect Crystal from David, including evidence of psychological problems that could lead to violence, domestic abuse allegations and a history of rape and sexual harassment allegations. "

"We believe that if the people who were responsible had done their jobs properly, our daughter would still be alive today," Crystal Brame's parents, Lane and Patty Judson of Gig Harbor, said in a prepared statement.

So, a year later, we know that the Tacoma police department is a snakepit where the corrupt rise and the fair-minded learn to keep their heads down. Two city officials have lost their jobs, but not their golden parachutes. It may not be possible to find a judge not compromised by his connections to hear the lawsuit Ms. Brame's family has brought against the city. Furthermore, there is no evidence of reforms to end the practices that allowed someone like David Brame to rise to the position of chief of police. Change may come. But, if it does, it will be slow.

posted by J. | 7:12 PM

Reading: Two masters and some novices

First, let me apologize for slow posting lately. I have been having a problem with my laptop that results in sluggishness, slow typing and an occassional crash. An oddity is that when it crashes, the PowerBook G4 will reboot in Firmware mode. Weird. Apple is looking into the problem.

Meanwhile, I'm writing less and it takes forever to get the limited output done.

I've recently read several books I want to review that relate to civil rights issues in a way. Among them are Toni Morrison's Love, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, an anthology of science fiction and fanstasy stories by African-American writers, and Middelesex, a novel about an intersex individual by Jeffrey Eugenides. Sheree R. Thomas edited Dark Matter. Though I haven't written the reviews yet, consider all three books recommended.

For now, I would like to direct your attention to one of the writers in the anthology. Douglas Kearney's contribution is a short, short story called "Anansi Meets Peter Parker at at the Taco Bell on Lexington." It is a brief meditation on cultural appropriation. I had hoped to find the story online, but haven't. So, I am going to suggest reading some of this young writer's poetry instead. "Messiah Dies for Their Sins" is posted here. Another selection from his student work, "Lovepoem Por De-Familiar" is here.

posted by J. | 1:45 AM