Purple Berets


When the Batterer
is a Cop

Home Page
About the Purple Berets
Breaking News
Violence Against Women
Tools For Working Your Own Case
Other Law Enforcement Issues
Contact Us




Abusive Cops Rarely Pay the Price

Police domestic violence moved from the back rooms to the front pages last April when Tacoma, Washington Police Chief David Brame shot and killed his wife, Crystal Brame, as their two young children waited nearby. Prior to the shooting, Crystal had filed court papers accusing her husband of two separate incidents over the prior six months when David Brame pointed his service revolver at her and tried to choke her, threatening to "snap [her] neck."

In the wake of Brame's death, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer did an extensive investigation into officer-involved domestic violence in the Seattle area. They found 41 officers who had been accused of domestic violence within the previous five years, a number of them accused of multiple incidents. Few paid any professional price; less than half faced charges, and only one was convicted. Among the cases unearthed by the Post-Intelligencer are these:

Seattle Police Ofcr. Phil Rees flew into a rage and slammed his wife, Jenifer, into a wall and hurled a dresser drawer at her, leaving visible injuries. Rees called King County sheriff's deputies, who handed her intoxicated husband back his gun and let him drive away, "so he wouldn't miss work in the morning." No charges were filed. Rees was not disciplined, despite two prior complaints of domestic violence against him.

Abusive Cops Rarely Pay the Price!In a fight with his wife, Ofcr. Kevin Hawley grabbed his handgun saying, "I'm going to blow my fucking head off and you're going to watch." He then put the gun barrel in his mouth and pressed his cheek against hers. No internal investigation was conducted. Hawley was promoted to detective.

Four days before Christmas, Washington State Trooper Ronald Somerville grabbed his girlfriend by the throat, shoved her over the couch and pounced on her. When she ran to the phone to call 911, Somerville snatched the receiver and hung it up. As she darted for the stairs, he grabbed her again, put his hand around her throat and pushed her down, shouting, "You don't want to go out this way." Somerville was charged with 4th degree assault and vandalism, charges that were later dismissed. His discipline? A written reprimand.

The Post-Intelligencer found that police departments in general were:

  • Creating a double standard by not immediately arresting officers accused of domestic violence.
  • Putting victims at greater risk by not taking away the officers' guns.
  • Failing to conduct thorough internal investigations of the incidents. (In many cases no review was conducted.)
  • Rarely determining there was wrongdoing in domestic violence complaints against officers.
  • Lacking specific policies on how to handle officers accused of abuse.

May 2004


© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets
You can copy and distribute this information at will
if you include credit and don't edit.

Copyright © 2001 Purple Berets

Web Site by S. Henry Wild