Special Reports

WSP will investigate Brame sex complaint

The Washington State Patrol has taken over the investigation of a Tacoma police officer's sexual harassment complaint against late Police Chief David Brame.

The woman filed the complaint earlier this month with Tacoma's Human Resource Department, alleging, sources say, that Brame offered to promote her in exchange for group sex.

Recently, State Patrol officials told the city that state investigators should check the complaint as part of their review of possible criminal actions connected to the Brame scandal, State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas said Thursday.

The city agreed, and the complaint was turned over to the State Patrol, where it remains under investigation, Serpas said.

The city's Human Resources director, Phil Knudsen, did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

In addition to the State Patrol's investigation, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is conducting an administrative review of Brame's career.

Both began days after Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, then committed suicide April 26 as they struggled through a contentious divorce.

In recent days, the State Patrol's investigation has taken precedence over the WASPC review because of concerns over witness interviews, said Kitsap County deputy prosecutor Ione George, who is part of the WASPC review.

Witnesses compelled to talk to investigators in the administrative review might provide information that would be pertinent but unusable in a criminal investigation because of potential self-incrimination, George said.

Because of that, the administrative review has slowed so that criminal investigators can conduct interviews first, she said.

In addition to the sexual harassment complaint, State Patrol detectives are looking at whether Catherine Woodard, one of Brame's assistant chiefs, did anything criminal when she helped him in his divorce proceedings.

In a 911 call on April 11, Crystal Brame said Woodard had intimidated and threatened her in the past, though she gave no specifics.

In addition to the Woodard allegations, State Patrol detectives will look into any other criminal allegations that come to light, Serpas said.

"Every possible rock will be turned over," he said. "We're not on a witch hunt. It's only as broad as what we learn."

As the State Patrol investigation continues, WASPC investigators are reviewing hundreds of pages of Tacoma police documents, George said.

The WASPC review will gear up again after the criminal investigation ends.

"We will do that as soon as they feel it is OK for us and they've cleared whatever they need to do," said Larry Erickson, the executive director of WASPC and coordinator of the Brame review.

In other developments related to the Brame case:

•The state Attorney General's Office has asked the Pierce County Sheriff's Department to do more investigating into an allegedly threatening e-mail that Tacoma police union president Pat Frantz sent to a Tacoma Web publisher who first publicized Brame's divorce.

The Sheriff's Department has assigned a detective to do more follow up on the e-mail, spokesman Ed Troyer said.

When completed, the department will send the case back to the Attorney General's Office for a decision on whether criminal charges should be filed.

•WASPC released the last set of documents it has received from Tacoma police for its administrative review of the Brame case.

The hundreds of pages included memos on an Internal Affairs review of e-mail accounts for police employees April 26 to see whether anyone contacted the news media in the hours after the Brame shootings.

The documents also detail three Internal Affairs reports that name Brame in the complaints.

In 1999, a police commander filed a complaint against then-assistant chief Brame, alleging the department allowed a hostile work environment and was not concerned enough about his mental health.

The commander made the complaint after filing a claim with the city, accusing city leaders and former police chiefs of employment discrimination.

In 2000, a Tacoma resident alleged Brame and an officer failed to follow up on the resident's allegations against another officer. Brame, still an assistant chief, was exonerated.

The third complaint, also filed in 2000, accused Brame and three other officers of negligence in investigating a Tacoma man's complaint against another patrol officer.

Brame and the others were exonerated.

Staff writer Stefano Esposito contributed to this report.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268