Special Reports

Psychologist: Don't hire Brame

A clinical psychologist who evaluated prospective Tacoma police officers recommended in 1981 that David Brame not be hired, according to the late chief's personnel file released Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Brame got the job of patrol officer and later was promoted, ultimately becoming chief of police in 2002.

Wednesday, four days after Brame shot his wife and killed himself in a Gig Harbor parking lot, City Manager Ray Corpuz read the recommendation for what he said was the first time.

"I didn't see this," said Corpuz, who appointed Brame chief. "I saw this for the first time in the last few minutes."

Corpuz could not explain why he had never seen the 22-year-old evaluation before.

The police department faxed the one-page form noting the recommendation to Corpuz's office after a News Tribune reporter asked police officials about it.

The file released Wednesday included not only the psychologist's recommendation but also several other documents relating to Brame's early career that were not in the version of Brame's personnel file released to The News Tribune in December 2001.

The newspaper received the file after a public records request when Brame was a finalist for the chief's job.

At the press conference, Corpuz repeated that he was not aware of a rape complaint filed against Brame in 1989.

He said those facts would have raised concerns had he known about them during the process that led to Brame's appointment.

"We have holes in our review process," he said. "Our system, our information, our procedures are lacking."

Corpuz said he had never read Brame's entire personnel file, and relied on information from the city's Human Resources Department and other city officials when he decided to appoint Brame.

"This would cause a red flag for me," he said of the no-hire recommendation.

He suggested information about Brame might have been withheld from him, but he could not say how or by whom.

Dr. Steven H. Sutherland made the recommendation against hiring Brame to the police department's director of training.

Sutherland, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, gave no explanation for his recommendation on the form.

Brame authorized Sutherland to release any and all information included in the pre-employment psychological exam, but no other information was in the personnel file.

Sutherland conducted the exam, one of the final steps in the hiring process, Sept. 30, 1981.

It was unclear Wednesday night why - given the psychologist's recommendation - Brame was hired two months later.

Police spokesman Jim Mattheis declined to comment.

R.A. Amundsen, who was the acting chief when he hired Brame in 1981, said Wednesday he couldn't explain it either.

"If there was a recommendation not to hire, he wouldn't have been hired," Amundsen said. "That's what I find hard to believe."

He said he didn't recall whether Brame appealed Sutherland's recommendation.

Mattheis declined to comment on whether a negative recommendation on the psychological exam could be appealed or what the process was.

Since Saturday's shootings, police and city officials have started to review Brame's career, including all his personnel records, his marital problems and how he was selected to be the city's top cop.

As part of the review, police officials were releasing to the public Brame's personnel file and a detective's personal file on Brame, including his 1996 accusations that his wife abused him.

Documents released Wednesday included Brame's employment application, promotional announcements, certificates, probationary reports and letters from citizens and commanders.

Among the records were dozens of pages missing from the 2001 version of the file released to The News Tribune.

Mattheis declined to comment on the discrepancy between the two files. Assistant city attorney Heidi Horst, the department's legal adviser in 2001, was unavailable Wednesday night.

Brame applied to be a Tacoma police officer April 7, 1981. Candidates must pass a written test, a physical agility test and an oral board.

Department officials then do a background investigation to ensure the information a candidate provided was correct and up-to-date.

Polygraph, medical and psychological exams follow. Failing the psychological exam does not automatically disqualify a job candidate, Mattheis said. However, under state law, a candidate who fails the medical exam is automatically dropped.

Amundsen hired Brame on Nov. 23, 1981.

"It is our pleasure to inform you that you successfully completed the various examination/screening presses for police patrol officer," Amundsen wrote Brame in a letter included in his file.

"We are pleased that you are joining our department and hope that we will share a long and productive association."

Brame went on to graduate from the state Basic Law Enforcement Academy. His training officer said Brame displayed a positive attitude toward the staff and the program.

"With further training and experience, recruit Brame should be able to perform the duties and functions of a police officer," Keith Engstrom wrote in a report to Amundsen.

Staff writer Sean Robinson contributed to this report.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268

stacey.mulick@mail.tribnet.com

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