Decade After Tacoma Chief Episode, Agencies Lack Domestic Abuse Policies


When Tacoma, Wa., police chief David Brame shot and killed his wife in a parking lot ten years ago after years of abusing her, the shock from that event mobilized national support for a more aggressive response to domestic violence in police households. Still, reports the New York Times and “Frontline,” in many departments, an officer will automatically be fired for a positive marijuana test, but can stay on the job after abusing or battering a spouse.

After the Tacoma killing, the International Association of Chiefs of Police tried harder to persuade departments to adopt model rules on domestic violence in their ranks. Responding to concerns that domestic violence had long been treated more leniently than other forms of misconduct, IACP called for zero tolerance for abusers, tougher pre-employment screening and a set of procedures to ensure rigorous investigation of every accusation. Police departments have been slow to adopt the rules. Punishment is often light and job loss uncommon. Only a quarter of the 56 largest city and county police departments that responded to a survey have a distinct policy for domestic violence involving officers.

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