The hearing for Lowell Police Lieutenant Thomas Siopes, whom the city seeks to fire for his role in the death of Alyssa Brame, continued into its third day yesterday, with Siopes's counsel continuing their cross-examination of Police Superintendent William Taylor.
On January 12, 2013, Brame was arrested by Lowell police for allegedly soliciting sex, fell unconscious, and ultimately died of alcohol poisoning while in police custody.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute anyone for Brame’s death, but an internal Board of Inquiry review by the police department found that six police officers and two civilian employees violated department policies, possibly contributing to Brame’s death. Police left Brame alone in a cell for over an hour after she lost consciousness. When she was finally checked on and found unresponsive, another 15 minutes passed before anyone called 911. The Board of Inquiry report notes that the department “has had a long-standing policy of ‘At no time will an unconscious prisoner be placed into a cell. Unconscious prisoners shall be examined by trained medical individuals as soon as possible.’”
Several of the employees involved in Brame’s death were recommended for disciplinary action by Police Superintendent William Taylor. The City of Lowell offered deals to the five employees facing the harshest punishment, which allowed them to accept lesser punishment instead of facing hearings. Siopes, who was in charge the night Brame died, was the only one to reject the deal offered to him, which included a demotion to patrolman and a 180-day unpaid suspension.
I was not able to make it to the third day of the hearing, but according to The Lowell Sun, Siopes's counsel tried to establish that Lowell police "routinely" place highly intoxicated people in cells. The Sun reports:
[Attorney Peter] Perroni asked Taylor if he thought he was better qualified to assess Brame's medical condition from a video rather than from the personnel who dealt with Brame.
Taylor responded that in his opinion, Brame needed medical attention.
"I stand by that," said Taylor.
Perroni cited 13 cases dating to 2008 -- and a New Year's Eve 2009 incident where Taylor was the officer in charge -- when officers carried in people who were highly intoxicated and placed them in holding cells under protective custody, but never sought medical attention for them despite being falling-down drunk.
Perroni also grilled Taylor about the Board of Inquiry citing the lack of first-responder training required of the detention attendants, who are supposed to oversee people in the holding cells.
"You didn't want to get to the bottom of why there was no training?" Perroni asked Taylor. "Didn't you want that information before you rendered judgment on Lt. Siopes?"
Perroni noted that Taylor sent a letter saying he was going to ask the Board of Inquiry to look at "other aspects of the case," but did he?
"My memory," Taylor said, is that he did not.
"I don't have a memory of doing it," he testified.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan's investigation into Brame's death recommended that all Lowell Police Department personnel, both sworn and civilian, be trained "to afford a better understanding of the difference between being 'passed out' from alcohol or drugs and being 'unconscious.'"
When the hearing is over, Eric Slagle, the director of Development Services who is serving as hearing officer, will make a recommendation to City Manager Kevin Murphy about what disciplinary action should be taken against Siopes. The decision will ultimately rest with Murphy.
Earlier today, The Bay State Examiner was contacted by Alice Swiridowsky-Muckle, Alyssa Brame's mother. We previously reported that Swiridowsky-Muckle was not present during the first day of the hearing (which we attended). Howard Friedman, a civil rights attorney representing Swiridowsky-Muckle, said on Friday that neither of them had ever been notified by the city that the hearing was scheduled for this week.
Swiridowsky-Muckle told us by email she was "furious" that no one from the city contacted her about the hearing. She said Friedman contacted her about the hearing, but she did not see the email until yesterday because she was visiting a family member in the hospital.