Accused Wife Abuser, Rapist, Murderer-AND City Police Chief: Is This Any Way to Run a City?? You Bet It is, Says the City of Tacoma
Alternate title: Tacoma’s Keystone Cops Routine Turns to Tragedy
Who would’ve believed that it’d be possible to combine wrong-headed personnel decision after wrong headed decision finally ending in a tragic double homicide. Well, Tacoma’s done it.
David Brame, the city’s police chief, rose up through the ranks after he first joined the force in 1981. He was married and had two children. By some accounts, he was a respected police officer in his community. Yet all this concealed a terrible “secret,” that to many wasn’t a secret at all. David Brame was an accused wife beater and rapist. In addition, the city’s clinical psychologist who interviewed Brame before he joined the force in 1981 told the city that he was unfit to serve as a police officer. All of this disparaging information was deliberately ignored by the City Manager and other officials as he received promotion after promotion.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer (“PI”), ran an April 25th story http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/119169_tacoma25.html describing divorce proceedings between Brame & his wife, Crystal. The records alleged wife beating, choking, threats of death, controlling behavior. A Tacoma police officer, in suing the city for racial discrimination, charged that Tacoma police received a complaint in 1988 from a woman claiming Brame had threatened her with a gun and then raped her. The then-police chief ruled the charge “unsustained” and closed the case without further investigation. What’s going on in that police force?
In November, 2002 divorce proceedings, Crystal Brame alleged that Brame “choked me and threatened that he could snap my neck if he wanted to.” It was the fourth time that year he’d tried to choke her, each time sending flowers later to apologize, she said. Brame maintained that he was the real victim of domestic violence during his 11-year marriage(!). The PI quotes the City Manager on the day before the murders as saying: “He’s doing a great job,” Corpuz said. “I’m not interested in exploring David’s personal life at this time.” Is this a city official with his head in the sand, or what?
The day the PI story came out, the city’s Human Resources department recommended that Brame’s gun and badge be suspended. The City Attorney responded that such action was premature since none of the charges had been proven or resulted in a conviction. The next day, David Brame shot his wife in a shopping mall with his two children watching on in horror. Then he shot himself. Both died–a tragedy that easily could, and SHOULD have been averted.
After Brame’s death, the city appointed the assistant chief to be interim chief. All this seems perfectly natural, until you find out that the assistant chief (a woman) allegedly was the chief’s paramour; AND that Brame’s wife once called the police to complain that both of them had gone to her parent’s home and engaged in threatening behavior. All of this was known to the city.
After first battling the regional and national press to keep Brame’s divorce proceedings sealed under court order (when he was alive), the city has joined with the press to request the unsealing of the documents now that he is dead. A judge approved this step today. But the earlier stonewalling makes you wonder what else the city has to hide in this ugly affair? So much for open government and transparency. Keeping secrets like this happens in a totalitarian state maybe. But this is America, isn’t it?
This isn’t a comedy of errors…it’s a comedy of horrors, horror after horror. The city had so many opportunities to correct its initial mistake of hiring Brame for the force in 1981. Each time, the city chose the precisely wrong action. It reminds me of Abba Eban’s comment on Palestinian intransigence in the face of a potential peace agreement: “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The citizens of Tacoma deserve better.
© Richard Silverstein 2003