Special Reports

Ex-cop seeks $1.2 million

A former Tacoma police officer wants more than $1 million from the city because he says his superiors, including Police Chief David Brame and assistant chief Catherine Woodard, unfairly fired him in 2001.

Jim Swilley and his wife, Tami Swilley, have filed a $1.2 million claim with the city and the police department, saying Swilley's bosses retaliated against him because he refused to cover up for supervisors who forced him to make an unwarranted arrest.

"The brainchild out there behind the whole thing was Brame," said Swilley's attorney, John Stocks. "(Swilley) was trying to be an honest, truthful cop, and you're not part of the system when you do that."

Swilley alleges that Woodard authorized an investigation in which investigators created false information to justify terminating him for the unauthorized use of city computers.

The claim is a precursor to a civil lawsuit against the city, the department and a number of individuals. State law requires people to submit a claim and wait 60 days for an answer before they can sue a government agency,

Swilley's claim names 32 people, including Brame, the late chief; Woodard; his supervisor, Sgt. Frank Krause; and assistant chief William Meeks.

In the fall of 2000, Swilley and his patrol partner believed they lacked cause to arrest a black man on the Hilltop, but a supervisor ordered him to make an arrest anyway, Swilley contends.

Just days after completing an arrest report that showed the officers had no probable cause, Woodard authorized an Internal Affairs investigation against Swilley, Stocks said.

Swilley, in law enforcement for 20 years, was fired for having pornography on his department computer, his attorney said. But Swilley said the images were downloaded from e-mail messages at times when he didn't have access to his computer.

Stocks said Swilley was using the Internet to send instant messages about work to his patrol partner. When investigators checked his computer, they found "solicitation" e-mails about pornography, but Swilley hadn't gone to the porn links, Stocks said.

Swilley, 40, worked for the Tacoma police for four years. He's now a security guard at the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn and lives in Olympia.

Swilley's claim alleges he lost wages and suffered emotional distress. He also is asking for his attorney's fees of $250 an hour.

Stocks said Swilley was a victim of a "good old boys network" in which police want employees to do whatever they tell them and not buck the system.

"I think they do want honest cops, but they don't want someone who'll go against authority," Stocks said.

Swilley sued the Rainier Police Department in 1997. He eventually won $50,000 from a jury in the wrongful termination lawsuit, his attorney said.

Tacoma's acting risk manager did not return calls for comment Wednesday. Carol Mathewson, spokeswoman for the City of Tacoma, said she hadn't seen the claim and couldn't comment on it.

Karen Hucks: 253-597-8660