Editor's Note: Domestic abuse is an unfortunate reality of life. The fact that it is sometimes committed by law enforcement professionals is a harsh reality that many of us don't like to acknowledge, much less deal with professionally. That it exists is not a comment about law enforcement in general. We are all human. No one is perfect. Law enforcement professionals are not exempt. In this article, our Police Life contributor, Michelle Perin, talks candidly about its impact in the law enforcement community, law enforcement families, and her own experience with it. This could not have been an easy article for her to write and we hope that readers approach it with an open heart and mind. This is not a "police-critical" article. Law enforcement as a whole is not being indicted here. Read on. - Ed.
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In 2003, Crystal Judson Brame was killed by her husband Tacoma (WA) Police Chief David Brame, Sr. He shot her and then himself in a public parking lot with their two children nearby. The media went crazy. Headlines shouted out the details of years of domestic abuse and department complacency. It was a tragedy to the family, the community and law enforcement everywhere. Unfortunately, it was one more story added to the book of police-perpetrated domestic violence that continues to get thicker and thicker. A book in which my family also has a chapter.
It was a Wednesday afternoon when my seven year old son came home from school with the bruises. I shared joint custody of him and his two year old brother with my ex-husband. We both worked for the same department. He was a police officer. I was a dispatcher. When I asked my son what happened, he told me his dad had gotten mad and hit him. Then, he went out to play. I sat in my room agonizing. I was in shock. I didn't know what to do. I was angry and scared. Then, my phone rang. It was an officer from the police department who had jurisdiction where both my ex-husband and I lived. The school had called after my son's teacher sent him to the nurse.
Within two days, our lives were turned upside down. My son's father was arrested. News vans were camped in front of my house. Pictures of my ex were splashed on the television and in the newspapers. Quotes attributed to my son blared from the speakers. I have no idea how it was legal for the department to release the statements of a minor or how the media got a hold of them, but regardless, I felt sick every time I heard or saw them. I tried desperately to protect my son from seeing them. I called my department public information office and asked them to help me get the media away from my house. This was my first experience with the departmental barriers I had heard other family members of police abusers faced. I was told to call the department handling the case. That it wasn't their issue and they couldn't talk to me about it or help me. I was frustrated because this was my department too. I just stayed inside and kept the shades drawn.
I was granted a restraining order, but it was promptly contested. The main issue was not that an incident of violence had occurred, but that the order would prevent him from carrying a gun (and therefore couldn't do his job). In court, my ex was calm, collected and comfortable. I was nervous, uncertain and scared. Then, the judge asked me, "You do realize that this will prevent him from doing his job, right?" This was my second experience with how police-perpetrated domestic violence differs.
In the end, my son's father was given diversion because it was his first offense. During a lengthy discussion with the prosecuting attorney, she explained his upstanding position in the community was a factor in sentencing. Third experience. Within our department, he resigned in lieu of being fired. I heard rumors the reporting jurisdiction was pushing to have his certification revoked. Regardless, comments floated around my department about how I had gotten him in trouble. I never regained the comfort I had once felt there. I didn't stay much longer.