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. A report by the police Board of Inquiry found that several police 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.’”
Siopes, who was in charge the night Brame died, was recommended for termination by Police Superintendent William Taylor.
Now, according to the latest report from The Lowell Sun:
Lt. Thomas Siopes has reached an agreement with the city to accept a lesser punishment for his actions the night a woman died in police custody last year in exchange for halting his disciplinary hearing.
Siopes, who was recommended for termination by Police Chief William Taylor, was slated to have his disciplinary hearing resume Tuesday.
Siopes has agreed to a 90-day suspension and a 9-month loss of rank to sergeant, sources confirmed to The Sun.
The city previously offered Siopes a deal that would have required him to accept a 180-day suspension and a permanent demotion to patrolman. Why would the city suddenly offer Siopes a better deal that will ultimately allow him to keep his job as a lieutenant? Here's what one of Siopes' attorneys said:
Gary Nolan, Siopes' attorney, confirmed the settlement and said in a statement: "This was always a case that should've been settled. Unfortunately, some cases need to go forward in a public forum, and have uncomfortable facts come to light, in order to bring the parties together. We started down that road -- and exposed several institutional problems that will hopefully be addressed by the City moving forward."
The city's decision to offer Siopes a new deal probably stems from an issue brought up during the fourth day of Siopes' hearing which suggested that Siopes never received the policy he was accused of violating. According to another recent Lowell Sun report:
[I]t recently came to light at Siopes' disciplinary hearing that a copy of the Police Department's general orders directory had the words "NEVER ISSUED" next to General Order 415 whited out when presented to Siopes' attorneys.
His attorneys say the document provides further evidence that the general order was never issued and is a very significant development in Siopes' case, as is the city's attempt to cover up the lack of dissemination of the document.
Meanwhile, city officials are mum about who whited out a portion of the general orders directory, and the impact it will have on Siopes' disciplinary fate.
However, City Manager Kevin Murphy said Friday he plans to determine how and why the document was altered.
It seems that if City Manager Kevin Murphy wanted to know how and why the document was altered, he was not interested in doing so in a public forum. Now that the city has offered Siopes a deal good enough for him to accept, the public hearing is over.
The whited-out document wasn't the only awkward issue for the city that would've been brought up if the hearing continued:
Nolan also points to a management study of the Lowell Police Department in 2008-2009 conducted by the Matrix Consulting Group to support Siopes' contention that he did not know the policies and procedures.
The study found that the policies and procedures within the department had not been reviewed or updated for years, and that many day-to-day operational directives are by "word of mouth." It also found that efforts to develop updated policies and procedures were stalled during review by the city attorney's office.
The city council has asked the city manager for updates on the police department's progress in implementing the policies recommended in the Matrix report and the city manager has told The Sun the police are addressing the issues, but it hardly seems like there's been much accountability in this case.
The city offered deals to all five of the police employees in the Brame case who faced serious disciplinary action. Only Siopes rejected the deal offered to him in favor of a hearing and when his hearing started, it became obvious why the city was willing to settle with the officers.
As Siopes' attorney Gary Nolan put it the first day of the hearing, the city government and police administration have been in “damage control mode,” trying to deflect blame from themselves.
The police employees cited for misconduct in the Brame case are certainly not blameless, but it still seems that the city was using them as scapegoats. They were probably all offered deals, at least in part, because the city didn't want to admit that there are serious problems at the Lowell Police Department that go beyond the people directly involved in the Brame case.
Superintendent William Taylor has referred to the disciplinary action meted out in the Brame case as "historic," but it amounts to nothing more than a few unpaid suspensions and temporary demotions for the people who were directly involved in Brame's booking. If the city was interested in fully addressing the tragedy of Brame's death, they would have cast an even wider net, and cited for misconduct the supervisors at the police department who failed to implement policies and training and the employees in the law office who were faulted in Matrix report.
The FBI is reviewing the fact surrounding Brame's death, leaving the possibility that there will be more accountability, but only time will tell what happens with their investigation.
Meanwhile, the city recently became embroiled in yet another scandal after it came to light that they hired private investigators to spy on a former library employee who filed a legal claim against the city.