Three former or current Tacoma police officers have told The News Tribune they believe David Brame, while a patrolman, raped a Tacoma woman on a first date in 1988.
The late police chief, then a liaison officer with a junior high school, was the focus of an Internal Affairs investigation in 1989 after the woman said Brame had raped her.
At the time he admitted to investigators he had sex with the woman, but said it was consensual.
But the three officers - the two Internal Affairs investigators and a mutual friend of Brame - and the woman said they believed then and now that the woman's allegation was true.
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Patrol officer Reggie Roberts, the mutual friend, said Brame even admitted he raped the woman.
Roberts said Brame made the admission after Roberts arranged a meeting at his Tacoma home between Brame and the woman.
Roberts said the woman told Brame: "You raped me." He said Brame admitted he had, apologized and tried to explain his actions.
Roberts said he told Brame to report himself to police or he would report the admission. He also encouraged the woman to file a complaint.
He said he later was interviewed about Brame's admissions and confirmed them to police investigators.
"They asked me point-blank: Was I present at the meeting and did I personally hear him admit he raped her?" Roberts said. "I answered yes to both questions."
Neither of the investigators, who are retired and asked to remain anonymous, remembers Roberts telling them of Brame's admission. But both confirmed they believe Brame raped the woman.
"She is saying (the sex) was without her consent, and there's a gun present, and she feels threatened," one investigator said. "If it was you or me, we would have been booked."
Roberts and the investigators agreed on the outlines of the woman's story.
She told investigators the rape occurred after a first date, in which she and Brame went out for a cup of coffee. She drove on the date, and reported that at one point Brame showed her he was wearing a gun concealed in an ankle holster.
She reported that when they returned to Brame's home he overpowered her and raped her. She told officers a second gun was on a nightstand that Brame pointed out to her during the rape.
The two investigators said they couldn't prove the allegations or seek criminal charges against Brame because there were no witnesses or remaining forensic evidence.
The woman, they said, feared Brame and didn't want to go through a criminal trial. In addition, the complaint was filed months after the alleged rape.
"It was too far removed for any injury photographs or a swab" to recover semen, the investigator said. All investigators had, he said, was, "'He said, she said.' We had nothing else.
"At the time I did believe her. I still believe her. Talking to her, talking to him, I believed her."
Ray Fjetland, then chief of police, said in an interview that he remembered the case, and that he believed the woman's account as well.
But he recalled her allegations were about Brame's uncontrolled anger and rough sex as part of an ongoing intimate relationship.
Fjetland said he did not recall the incident being described as a rape, nor did he recall mention of a gun.
"If it had come to me as a rape, we probably would have sought dismissal," Fjetland said.
He said he got the complaint shortly after he was named chief. He noted that many officers were disciplined or dismissed after he took over a troubled department.
Brame, he said, was a young officer he didn't personally know.
Though they don't agree on the specific allegation, the former chief and the investigators said the case was ruled "not sustained."
Fjetland said that meant the woman's charges were believed, but there wasn't sufficient evidence to fire the officer.
(The investigative file was destroyed after three years, a policy negotiated in a union contract.)
Fjetland said he called Brame to his office and told him he must learn to control his anger. He said he wanted Brame to receive a fitness evaluation from the department psychologist.
"He took it calmly and was not defensive," Fjetland said. "A lot of officers will argue about that. I interpreted Dave's acceptance of the evaluation as an admission that he had a problem he was willing to work on."
Fjetland said Brame was given several psychological tests, was interviewed at length and probably was counseled about anger management and stress issues.
He said Brame likely also was referred to longer-term counseling through an Employee Assistance Program, but that would have been confidential.
Fjetland said he watched Brame carefully thereafter. He subsequently promoted him to sergeant and to lieutenant.
He said Brame's file contained many commendations and positive reports. There were no reports from the public, fellow officers or subordinates complaining about Brame's fitness to lead.
Fjetland said he never saw Brame angry and never heard of him having further anger-control problems.
"When he was union president and we were in negotiations, I even threw a plate of doughnuts at a wall and shouted at him," Fjetland said. "He didn't react with any anger back at me.
"He's got that calm and cool demeanor about him, almost as if he's gauging every word he's going to speak."
Brame did, however, later mischaracterize or fail to correct misinterpretations about the outcome of the Internal Affairs investigation.
He once told David Seago, editorial page editor of The News Tribune, the investigation had "exonerated" him. That finding would mean an alleged event might have occurred but didn't break a department rule.
Brame also never clarified those who interpreted the allegation as "unfounded." That would indicate the department didn't believe the woman's account.
Brame knew, as the investigators and Fjetland both said, that the complaint was "not sustained," which means the account was believed, but there wasn't enough evidence to fire Brame.
"Officers hate that one," the investigator said. "They want to hear 'unfounded' or 'exonerated.'"
Still, the investigator said, Fjetland lacked the evidence to get Brame out of the department.
"I imagine Ray (Fjetland) sweated bullets over it," he said. "But if I had been chief, I don't know if I could have come up with a different conclusion."
Staff writer Kris Sherman contributed to this report.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486
Dave Zeeck: 253-597-8434