Special Reports

Brame: Who knew what, when?

Tacoma's city manager and acting police chief said Tuesday that an outside agency will investigate how the city and police department handled the career and marital problems of David Brame.

The agency has yet to be selected but will examine two major subjects:

*The process that resulted in Brame being appointed police chief in 2002.

*What those on the force knew about the problems in Brame's life, as well as what they did with the information and who they told about it.

"I want us to see if there was something we could have done differently," acting Chief Catherine Woodard said during a meeting with The News Tribune Editorial Board. "We can no longer defend Dave Brame."

Brame, 44, shot his wife, Crystal, 35, then committed suicide Saturday at a Gig Harbor shopping center.

Doctors at Harborview Medical Center on Tuesday upgraded Crystal Brame's condition to serious, though she remained in a coma and on life support.

The Brames had been locked in a contentious divorce and, in legal filings, traded accusations of abuse.

Crystal Brame said her husband pointed his gun at her, choked her and threatened to kill her. David Brame alleged his wife beat him, berated him and threatened to ruin his career.

Woodard and City Manager Ray Corpuz met Tuesday to discuss the outside investigation, its scope and which state agency could conduct it.

"We want this to be an open book," said the police department's legal adviser, Thomas Orr. "We need to figure out where things went south."

The review also will cover the police chief search process, as well as promotions within the department, Corpuz said.

"It's hard to change the outcome of what happened Saturday," he said. "(But) based on information we received later, we'll be looking to see if we could have done something."

Though the Brames' allegations became public last week, many in the city and Police Department knew about the couple's contentious divorce, their earlier marital problems and an Internal Affairs investigation concerning a rape allegation against David Brame.

Given that, Woodard and Corpuz want the investigation to focus on:

*The internal investigation into an allegation that Brame raped a woman while the two were on a date in 1988.

The woman filed a complaint with the department in 1989. Investigators said they could not determine whether the assault happened.

Records concerning the complaint were destroyed three years after the investigation. That follows departmental policy set up under an agreement negotiated with Tacoma's police union.

Police officials are searching for someone's personal copy of the investigation, Orr said.

"Somebody kept a copy," he said.

*Brame's two visits in September 1996 to the Gig Harbor police station concerning problems between him and his wife.

According to Gig Harbor Police Chief Mitch Barker, on the first visit, Brame told a sergeant about the couple's marital problems but did not make an abuse allegation or seek official action.

During the conversation, Brame called a friend, a Tacoma police detective who has not been publicly identified. The two talked at the station and then left.

On Sept. 15, 1996, Barker said, Brame again visited the Gig Harbor police station and asked to file an informational report noting a heated argument with Crystal Brame. He made no mention of physical abuse.

Officers took the report but didn't investigate further because no crime had been alleged, Barker said.

"It's not uncommon for people to come in to tell us about marital problems that don't reach the level of a crime," he said.

That level of seriousness is necessary to trigger the state's domestic violence statute. The law requires law enforcement officers to immediately make an arrest when there is evidence of an assault or a person violates a no-contact order.

*Brame's complaints over the years to his closest friends - most of whom are within the department - about abuse by his wife.

Starting in 1996, he talked to then-interim Police Chief Ken Monner and to fellow officer Bill Meeks, according to a declaration Brame filed as part of his divorce.

Brame also asked Meeks to videotape scratches and bruises.

More recently, Brame confided in about a dozen colleagues, including Woodard and Orr, about his contentious divorce, and denied his wife's abuse allegations.

Brame's co-workers also accompanied him to a court hearing and other matters related to the divorce.

For example, Woodard went with Brame the night of April 11 to pick up his two children for the weekend. The children and Crystal Brame were staying at her parents' home in Gig Harbor.

An argument broke out during the visit, and Crystal Brame called 911 to report what happened.

Woodard and Crystal Brame were to have lunch the next week so Crystal could tell Woodard her side concerning the divorce.

Woodard recalled Crystal Brame telling her, "If I was married to the same man you see at work, I'd be a happily married woman."

The lunch never took place, because following the April 11 episode, Orr told Woodard and several other members of department not to accompany Brame on any personal visits dealing with the divorce.

Orr also told Brame not to ask his staff to help him.

Investigators taking part in the upcoming review will:

*Look at how Brame's co-workers handled their dealings with him on his marital problems.

*Review whether officers have a duty to file a report to their commanders when a fellow officer claims to be a victim of abuse.

*Examine the city's police chief search processes, as well as promotions within the department.

In 2001, the city narrowed its list of candidates to four finalists and later to two - Brame and a Cleveland police deputy chief.

Background checks were done only on the external candidates, not Brame.

"If there are any lessons to be learned or any policies to be changed, we'll want to do that," said City Attorney Robin Jenkinson. "That's the goal here."

Staff writer Martha Modeen contributed to this report.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268