Special Reports

One Year Later: The Brame Shootings - Reform Report Card

A black check indicates promises that have been fulfilled. The gray checks indicate some progress has been made.


* (black check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Voluntary domestic violence training for Tacoma city employees

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma City Council

BACKGROUND: City Manager Jim Walton said he would offer the training sessions for city employees.

STATUS: Done. Training was made available last summer.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Domestic violence policy and mandated training for Tacoma city employees

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma residents, Tacoma City Council

BACKGROUND: Domestic violence advocates and others recommended a ban on hiring or promoting employees with a history of domestic violence. They also want discipline for employees who commit on-the-job domestic violence and a requirement that supervisors report employees involved in domestic violence.

STATUS: Nearly complete. A policy declaring Tacoma will not tolerate employees' use of city time or resources to commit acts of domestic violence is to take effect May 15. The policy gives supervisors the power, with the victim's approval, to report on-the-job domestic violence and provides for discipline. It also permits prehiring background checks. Karin White Tautfest of the YWCA and others who wrote the policy want it tougher in some areas.

o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: An independent reporting system for victims of domestic violence involving city employees

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma residents, Tacoma City Council-created committee and Crystal Brame's family

BACKGROUND: Victims of police-perpetrated domestic violence say they don't feel safe reporting abuse to 911 or through other traditional channels such as domestic violence hot lines because they might think they are staffed by their abuser's friends. Domestic violence experts suggested creating a secure hot line for not only police spouses and partners, but also partners of any city employee. STATUS: No progress on hot line, but Tacoma's new domestic violence policies address confidentiality.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: A public education campaign about domestic violence

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma residents, Tacoma City Council-created committee

BACKGROUND: Domestic violence advocates say the public needs better education about the problem. City officials discussed creating a public education campaign, as did various community groups.

STATUS: In progress. Alisa Velonis of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is working on plans for a marketing campaign to teach people that emotional abuse is unacceptable. Also, Tacoma City Council members soon might visit neighborhood councils and community groups to explain the city's new domestic violence policy.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: More domestic violence victim advocates in Tacoma

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma residents, city officials

BACKGROUND: After the Brame shootings, calls to the city's domestic violence victim advocate increased 25 to 30 percent. City officials said they wanted better victim advocacy, perhaps even replacing the three paid advocates cut in 1999. Police officials also told the City Council they would like to hire victim advocates.

STATUS: Partially done. The city hired an additional part-time advocate. In addition, the Tacoma Police Department is hiring a victims' advocate, plus a secretary to work with the advocate and domestic violence detectives.

* (black check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: New state law mandating all law enforcement agencies have a policy on officer-involved domestic violence

WHO WANTED IT: Local legislators and activists

BACKGROUND: A committee of local and regional politicians, police representatives, domestic violence advocates and others worked to create a draft law.

STATUS: Done. State Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) and state Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) shepherded the bill through the Legislature, where it passed unanimously. Gov. Gary Locke signed it into law March 15. It requires every law enforcement agency in the state to adopt, by June 2005, minimum standards for handling officer-involved domestic violence.

o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: New federal law tying federal funding to domestic violence programs and procedures

WHO WANTED IT: Crystal Brame's father, Lane Judson

BACKGROUND: By his daughter's bedside following the shooting, Judson said he dreamed of a law that would have helped her as her marriage collapsed. He proposed a law that would withhold federal funding from any agency that has no policy addressing domestic violence by employees.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. Judson's idea would be difficult to pass, lawmakers' aides say, because Congress is unwilling to threaten agencies' funding. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Edmonds) and U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) are working with domestic violence groups and police agencies on a law that would encourage police agencies to work to prevent, intervene in and end domestic violence in police families.

o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Coordinate the Tacoma and Pierce County court systems

BACKGROUND: City and county courts now operate independently. Pierce County Executive Ladenburg believes they should be linked, so judges can treat perpetrators consistently and track them no matter where they commit crimes.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. A joint city-county committee has researched the issue, including linking Municipal, District and Superior courts through the county's LINX judicial records system. Little progress has been made recently, but the issue isn't dead, Councilman Talbert said.

o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: A coordinated, city-county system to track domestic violence perpetrators after they get out of jail

WHO WANTED IT: Pierce County Executive Ladenburg and Tacoma City Council members Ladenburg and Talbert

BACKGROUND: Pierce County has probation officers monitor perpetrators after release; in Tacoma, judges check on perpetrators. The two systems can't be coordinated unless perpetrators are tracked the same way.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. Tacoma officials are considering whether to create a probation system similar to Pierce County's.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Better services for domestic violence victims in Pierce County suburbs

WHO WANTED IT: Pierce County and Tacoma officials, domestic violence victim advocates

BACKGROUND: Increased services were part of a five-point plan announced in August by Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg and Tacoma City Council members Connie Ladenburg and Talbert. A tax increase that would have paid for staffed centers in several suburbs failed at the polls in November.

STATUS: In progress. Pierce County recently got a federal grant to pay for a new advocate for domestic violence victims two mornings a week at the sheriff's South Hill precinct. The grant also will pay for a new, 40-hours-a-week phone hot line for suburban victims. In addition, the county has opened a "domestic violence kiosk" at Gig Harbor City Hall, where victims can apply for temporary protection orders. County officials are working to open kiosks in Lakewood, Bonney Lake and in Parkland or Spanaway.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: A city-county family justice center, also called a one-stop center, to help domestic violence victims

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma and Pierce County leaders

BACKGROUND: Domestic violence victims often have to go to more than two dozen places to navigate the courts and get social services that enable them to leave their abusers. In other cities, family justice centers provide all the services in one location. President Bush endorsed the concept last fall, announcing $20 million in grants for centers in 12 communities.

STATUS: In progress. Pierce County officials have applied to be one of the 12 communities included in the federal grant, and hope to hear results this fall. They say they plan to move ahead with the center whether they get the grant or not. They are working on acquiring a building to house the center, and have lobbied the state's congressional delegation for support.


o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Hire an outsider to run the Tacoma Police Department

WHO WANTED IT: Many Tacoma residents, then-City Manager Ray Corpuz and later interim City Manager Jim Walton

BACKGROUND: Walton searched for candidates and narrowed the list to an outside finalist and acting chief Don Ramsdell. The day after the interviews, the outside candidate withdrew and Walton made Ramsdell interim chief.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. Walton has said that as long as he's city manager, Ramsdell will be the police chief. That means the next city manager will hire a permanent police chief.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Forums to talk with residents about the department and its mission

WHO WANTED IT: Interim Chief Ramsdell

BACKGROUND: Ramsdell has said he wants to hold sessions throughout the city to meet with residents, talk about the department and listen to concerns of.

STATUS: In progress. He's held one and is planning others.

* (black check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Work with a consultant to review hiring practices

WHO WANTED IT: Interim Chief Ramsdell

BACKGROUND: A 2001 audit recommended changes to hiring practices; Ramsdell has said he wants new hires to fit well with the department's mission.

STATUS: Done. The department standardized the interview portion of the hiring process, provided training to officers who interview job candidates, worked with Human Resources to end cultural bias in its testing, and increased recruiting efforts. The department also beefed up background checks.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Annual performance evaluations for rank-and-file officers and commanders

WHO WANTED IT: 2001 independent performance audit of the department

BACKGROUND: At present, supervisors evaluate only new officers on probation and newly promoted officers.

STATUS: In progress. Ramsdell appointed a committee of officers to look into the idea.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Early-warning system to spot problem officers and intervene with counseling or training

WHO WANTED IT: Recommendation in 2001 performance audit

BACKGROUND: Similar systems are computer-based and alert commanders to employees who repeatedly have difficulties with civilians.

STATUS: In progress. Commanders have obtained a computer program that shows whether an officer has had more than one complaint in the previous year.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Civilian oversight of the department

WHO WANTED IT: City Human Rights Commission, City Council advisory committee

BACKGROUND: The commission has proposed an independent office in City Hall to review Internal Affairs investigations of police officers and a voluntary board to monitor police policies and make recommendations about potential changes.

STATUS: The City Council and the commission are scrutinizing the proposal.

* (black check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: New policy on officer-involved domestic violence

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma police officials, City Council members and residents

BACKGROUND: After the Brame shootings, city and police officials said the police department's policies on officer-involved domestic violence weren't specific enough. A committee of local and regional politicians, police domestic violence advocates and others worked on a new policy with the department.

STATUS: Done. The 14-page policy took effect Feb. 23 and has been tested several times. The policy was praised by domestic violence experts throughout the country, and many other departments have called Tacoma asking for a copy for use in writing their own policies.


* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Find out how Brame was hired as a police officer and promoted to chief; find out who knew about his marital problems and tainted professional background; uncover problems in city government that contributed to the Brame shootings and the aftermath

WHO WANTED IT: City leaders

BACKGROUND: Brame flunked a psychological evaluation before he was hired in 1981. When he was appointed chief, some officials also knew about a rape allegation against him in the late 1980s. Finally, several city and police officials knew his wife had said he had choked her and threatened to kill her. Some city officials believed he was incapable of doing his job as his marriage deteriorated, and there was a high-level discussion about whether Brame should be stripped of his gun and badge the day before the shootings. No action was taken.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs will do an administrative audit of city government. It has been put on hold in the past because of the criminal investigations. The City Council voted in November to restart it. It's unclear how far the investigation has proceeded. The 21-member Citizens Advisory Panel will review the findings and make recommendations to the City Council.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Investigate all credible tips regarding public corruption in Tacoma and Pierce County

WHO MADE IT: Mark Ferbrache, special agent with the FBI's public corruption squad in Seattle

BACKGROUND: When the Washington State Patrol conducted a criminal investigation of potential misconduct by members of the Tacoma Police Department, detectives received tips that fell outside of their investigation and forwarded them to the FBI.

STATUS: In progress. The investigation is continuing, though the FBI is tight-lipped about its progress.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Audit Tacoma's human resources functions

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma residents, Tacoma City Council

BACKGROUND: The city has paid for administrative audits of the police and fire departments to see how well they perform. Next up is how hiring, promotion, termination and other policies are handled in the city personnel department. A third audit of some city functionS would have happened regardless of the Brame scandal, but questions about how the police chief rose to power helped officials settle on this one. A separate investigation is under way into how Brame was hired, rose to power and remained on the job despite allegations of rape and domestic abuse.

STATUS: In progress. The City Council hired Cooperative Personnel Services on Feb. 4 to perform the audit under a $120,000 contract. Recommendations on how to better manage the city's personnel functions are expected in June.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Review of the city charter

WHO WANTED IT: The City Council, spurred by the City Club of Tacoma and various citizen groups

BACKGROUND: Mayor Bill Baarsma and others called for a review of the charter - adopted in 1953 and last reviewed in 1992 - before the Brame shootings. That, combined with the shootings and a grass-roots effort to change the city's form of government, spurred the council to appoint a 15-member Charter Review Committee last fall.

STATUS: In progress. The committee has until mid-May to scrutinize the charter, discuss possible changes and present them to the City Council. A public hearing on some of that work is scheduled for Thursday. The City Council must decide whether to put the proposed changes on the November ballot. The council also can propose changes of its own.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Investigate members of the Tacoma Police Department and other city agencies suspected of violating administrative policies

WHO WANTED IT: State Attorney General Christine Gregoire, then-Washington State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas, interim City Manager Walton, interim Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Mayor Baarsma

BACKGROUND: After the Brame shootings, city officials promised that independent investigations would seek out wrongdoing in city departments, as well as unethical behavior or poor decisions that might have contributed to the tragedy. They've also promised to follow the investigation trail "wherever it may lead" and widen investigations when necessary.

STATUS: Partially fulfilled. The State Patrol conducted a criminal investigation into potential criminal misconduct of Tacoma police officials and others related to the Brame scandal. No criminal charges resulted, but investigators said they uncovered potential administrative violations involving 32 police and city employees. The city has contracted with the State Patrol to conduct another investigation. The investigative team has been compiled and has started interviewing city employees. The State Patrol will present its findings to Walton after the investigation is complete.

* (gray check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: A citizens committee to work on the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs administrative audit into the Brame scandal. The committee should get firsthand reports from WASPC and offer advice. It also should make recommendations to the City Council on changes in city government.

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma residents

BACKGROUND: City Council appointed the 21-member Citizens Advisory Panel last summer.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. The committee has met several times, but its work is limited until the WASPC investigation is done. Co-chairwoman Ginny Eberhardt says members are frustrated and want to get to work.

o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: An independent ethics board for the city

WHO WANTED IT: Seven Tacoma City Council members expressed support for the idea, though some questioned how it would work.

BACKGROUND: An investigation last year by The News Tribune found the city ill-equipped to answer questions and resolve complaints about potential conflicts of interest among City Council members. Last month, State Auditor Brian Sonntag cleared a current city councilman and a former one of ethics violations, but urged the city to create an independent ethics board to address similar cases.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. Council members and Walton have discussed studying the creation of such a panel, but nothing has come forward.

o (blank check)

REFORM OR PROMISE: Hire a new city manager

WHO WANTED IT: Tacoma City Council

BACKGROUND: The City Council fired City Manager Ray Corpuz in July and promoted Jim Walton, the deputy city manager. The council, happy with the way Walton has refocused the city's attention on solving a looming budget crisis, economic development and its neighborhoods, has yet to begin a city manager search.

STATUS: Unfulfilled. The council is expected to vote Tuesday on a contract extending Walton's tenure through March 31, 2005. Keeping him on the job through next spring will provide stability during the difficult biennial budget process, council members say. The city is facing a $30 million budget shortfall.