Special Reports

Investigators cite inappropriate sexual conduct

State investigators unraveling the David Brame scandal spoke to at least seven current and former Tacoma Police Department employees about potentially improper sexual activity among department employees.

A 23-page report released Monday cites numerous examples of inappropriate conduct. State investigators mention "sexual liaisons" and "sex clubs" attended by members or former members of the department.

Investigators want to know whether membership or participation in such clubs affected promotions and decision-making during Brame's administration. They have recommended an upcoming internal review of the Police Department to examine those questions.

"Chief Brame sought out a sexual relationship with at least one officer under his command, and he was very forthcoming to many in his department about his other sexual activities and desires," investigators said.

Improper sexual conduct in the Police Department could be a significant factor in court, said Paul Luvera, the attorney representing Crystal Brame's family in a civil suit against the city.

"If the city maintains that it was running a proper department and that the David Brame situation is an aberration, I would think it would be highly relevant to a jury to see what tremendous disarray the department was in," Luvera said.

Before his divorce, Brame tried to lure his wife, Crystal, into a sexual threesome with a female officer, the woman said in a sexual harassment complaint filed with the city. Crystal Brame and the officer refused.

The harassment complaint was filed on the officer's behalf a few days after Brame fatally shot his wife and himself on April 26.

Investigators also say that in 2001, Brame and his wife visited a resort in Palm Springs that caters to nudists. Brame expressed fears to several individuals that information about his visit would be made public.

Before the shootings, Crystal Brame complained that Brame was pushing her to participate in group sex. She shared her fears with a friend, Liz Zimmerman.

"David wanted to get (Crystal) up to Seattle" with the intent of participating in group sex, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said Crystal Brame was "repulsed and angered" by the idea.

The News Tribune has learned that a high-ranking commander in the Police Department might have encouraged David Brame to participate in extramarital sex, and, while on the job, spoke of recruiting the chief and another officer into a Snohomish County "swingers" club.

For more than a year, until some point in mid-1999, the commander was a member of a Lynnwood club called New Horizons, where "swingers" - some from the law enforcement community - meet and share sexual partners.

The commander no longer is a member of the club, and the two club members who spoke to The News Tribune say David Brame was never a member.

New Horizons is described as the "Disneyland of Swing Clubs" and "the largest swing club in North America" in journalist Terry Gould's 1999 book, "The Lifestyle," which examines swinger culture.

The club, located on a 13-acre private estate in Lynnwood, features an Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, numerous fireplaces and "fantasy chambers" decorated in historical motifs, and private landscaped trails.

Sources told The News Tribune that weekend parties at New Horizons include as many as 300 to 400 people. New members join the club with assistance from sponsors who are already members. To join requires a one-time fee plus annual dues.

The roster includes many members from the Seattle Police Department and retired members of the Tacoma Police Department, a club member said. No active Tacoma officers belong.

Brian Moran, chief criminal prosecutor for the state attorney general, said that membership in such clubs is "not something that should exist in any department."

Legal experts say such activities, though not illegal, could undermine public trust in a police department.

"Whether you choose to be held to a higher standard or not, you're going to be held to a higher standard," said Dan Carlson, associate director of the Texas-based Institute for Law Enforcement Administration.

In a statement on the state's investigation, Washington State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas cited 12 examples of allegations that might violate Tacoma Police Department policies, including unbecoming conduct and immoral conduct.

Like many police departments, Tacoma's police manual prohibits "unbecoming conduct" by employees:

"Members shall conduct themselves at all times, both on and off duty, in such a manner as to reflect most favorably on the department," the policy states.

"Unbecoming conduct shall include that which brings the department into disrepute or reflects discredit upon the individual as a member of the department, or that which impairs the operation or efficiency of the department or member.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

sean.robinson@mail.tribnet.com

Martha Modeen: 253-597-8646

martha.modeen@mail.tribnet.com

  Comments