Special Reports

Tacoma native son rose quickly, known for focus, determination

On the day of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame's swearing-in ceremony, his wife, Crystal, pinned on his badge as their two children watched.

Saturday, 15 months later, the four were together again when Brame shot his wife and then committed suicide.

The two gunshots cut short the career of an East Side native, a second-generation cop who quickly rose through the ranks. He wore only one uniform in his 21-year career - that of the Tacoma Police Department.

"He was firmly on that path to become an outstanding chief," said officer Pat Frantz, president of the union that represented nearly 300 patrol officers, detectives and sergeants under Brame's command.

Brame was also a 44-year-old man under strain from a contentious divorce that became public in news reports Friday.

Crystal Brame had accused her husband of pointing his gun at her, of choking her several times and of threatening to kill her.

However, those who knew Brame in his professional life said he was a focused and determined leader. Many said they'd never seen a violent side to him.

"I never saw him angry," said Tacoma neighborhood activist Ginny Eberhardt. "I never saw anything like that."

Brame was at the pinnacle of his career.

He was a man of action. After becoming chief Jan. 14, 2002, he quickly moved to revive an often embattled department. He'd been formulating his plans for years as he rose through the department's three bureaus.

In his first months as chief, his definition of long term was six months.

Among other things, he emphasized community-oriented policing and created a bureau to raise and enforce standards of conduct for officers.

He also demanded his command staff follow his lead and attend neighborhood meetings and ride with the patrol officers. The moves helped raise morale and refurbish the department's image.

"He worked with the employees rather than against the employees," Frantz said.

He expected nothing but the best from his officers and command staff, colleagues said.

"Our badge of office is a symbol of public faith," Brame wrote in a memo to the department June 26, 2002, "and we have willingly accepted it, through our oath of office, as a public trust. We maintain this public trust as long as we are true to the ethics of our police service."

Brame often told jokes and didn't like the formal title of chief. He preferred to be called Dave or D.A., for David Allen.

"He would always stop and talk," said Eberhardt, a member of the West End Neighborhood Council. "He listened if someone had something to say."

Policing was in Brame's life from the day he first knew what his dad did. Born and raised on the city's East Side, he was the son of Tacoma police officer Eugene Brame.

He was athletic, playing baseball and later basketball on Lincoln High School's 1975 championship men's team.

"He was a totally class act," said childhood friend, Carlos Sombrano, 44, of Puyallup.

Brame attended the University of Puget Sound, where he took classes from Bill Baarsma, now Tacoma's mayor.

Brame graduated from with a bachelor's degree in public administration, then joined the police department in 1981. His older brother, Eugene Jr., and a cousin, Doug, already were working with his father on the force.

As a patrol officer he was praised for his professionalism and for his presentations on crime issues to local businesses.

His file includes commendations for street arrests, community efforts and good judgment.

His career also included an Internal Affairs investigation in the late 1980s after a complaint was lodged against him. Ray Fjetland, who was chief at the time, has declined to explain the complaint but said it was unfounded.

Brame got his dream assignment Dec. 28, 2001, when he was named Tacoma's 46th police chief.

"I've lived and breathed the Tacoma Police Department my entire life," he said at the time.

Brame modeled his administrative style after Fjetland, a popular leader among the rank-and-file for his approachable nature.

"He just really seemed to be on top of what the people needed," Eberhardt said. "It just seemed he brought everybody together and made them happier."

Staff writers Susan Gordon and Kris Sherman contributed to this report.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268

stacey.mulick@mail.tribnet.com





David Allen Brame



Born: July 28, 1958; died April 26, 2003

Family: Married to Crystal Brame for more than 11 years; two children, ages 5 and 8. His wife filed for divorce in late February; they were living separately in Gig Harbor. It was his second marriage. His parents still live on Tacoma's East Side.

Brame's early years: Born-and-reared East Side Tacoman; played on 1975 championship Lincoln High School basketball team.

Police, family ties: Joined Tacoma Police Department in 1981, following his father, Eugene; an older brother, Eugene Jr.; and his cousin, Doug, all of whom have retired from department. Brame's other brother, Dan, is a Pierce County sheriff's deputy.

Education: Earned bachelor's degree in public administration from the University of Puget Sound; graduated from FBI National Academy and received first-line, midlevel and executive-level supervision certificates from Washington State Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Academy.

Law enforcement career: Chief since January 2002, succeeding James Hairston. Originally hired by department in 1981, moved up ranks and served in all divisions. Served as vice president of Local 6 for six years and negotiated contracts for union. Captain of Criminal Investigations Division when Trang Dai massacre occurred in 1998. Hairston appointed him assistant chief in 1999.

Accomplishments: Brame created the Professional Responsibility Bureau aimed at increasing professionalism of officers and department's public image. The bureau conducts Internal Affairs investigations, coordinates racial profiling task force and focuses on high-risk police policies, such as use of force, high-speed pursuits and civil rights complaints. He also broke up the traffic unit, assigned motorcycle officers to each sector, added a community-liaison officer to each sector and formed a task force to increase applicants for 30 open patrol positions.



Source: News Tribune files

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