Special Reports

Outside investigation of Brame case starts Monday, may take weeks

An outside investigation will start Monday into the career of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, his marital problems and who among his co-workers and city officials knew about his tainted past.

Three detectives and a prosecutor will delve into Brame's background, how he was selected chief and criminal allegations that have come to light since he shot his wife, Crystal, and then committed suicide April 26 in the midst of the couple's messy divorce.

The length of the investigation was unknown Friday, but it could take weeks, said Larry Erickson, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The city is contracting with the association to conduct the investigation and will pay per diem and other administrative costs, Erickson said.

When completed, the investigation and its findings will be presented to the Tacoma City Council, city attorneys and Pierce County prosecutors.

The results will not go to City Manager Ray Corpuz, because he is among city officials whose actions are being investigated.

"This cloud has to be lifted to the extent it can be," Erickson said. "It's a necessary thing."

Also Friday, three Washington State Patrol detectives began investigating possible criminal misconduct by assistant police chief Catherine Woodard.

Woodard, named acting chief in the hours after Brame committed suicide, was a close friend of Brame's and helped him with his divorce efforts. Corpuz on Thursday placed her on indefinite paid administrative leave.

She has not been accused of any criminal act, although Crystal Brame had said that Woodard had intimidated and threatened her in the past.

Corpuz, the City Council and members of the police department have called for the outside review in the wake of the April 26 shootings. The association of sheriffs and police chiefs was chosen because of its law enforcement expertise and resources.

Founded in 1963, the association is comprised of executives and top management from law enforcement agencies statewide. It collects the state's crime reports and jail statistics, scrutinizes agencies for accreditation and provides training opportunities.

The association reports to the Legislature and is funded by the state, dues from law enforcement agencies and offender monitoring fees.

"If you're going to investigate nuclear physics, you would want someone knowledgeable in nuclear physics," Councilman Mike Lonergan said. "Someone knowledgeable in what the best practices are ... gives you a leg up."

Erickson said the association has been involved in two other investigations since he became executive director in 1995.

At the request of Chelan County prosecutors, the association investigated a Wenatchee police chief accused of assaulting his wife in 1996, and found the complaint was not sustained.

Erickson could not remember the circumstances of the second investigation, but said it was an administrative review.

"We don't get a lot of these," he said.

The City Council will meet today to consider a memorandum of understanding with the association that outlines the parameters of the investigation to explore:

•Brame's hiring as a police officer in 1981 when a psychologist recommended against it, as well as his promotions and assignments during his 21-year career.

•Brame's conduct on and off duty, including his marital problems.

•The Tacoma Police Department's policies and practices on hiring, promotion, discipline and record keeping.

•Who, including Corpuz, had information on the issues surrounding Brame's professional and personal life, when they knew it and what they did with it.

•Any other issues that come up during the investigation.

The City Council will create a committee of the mayor and probably three council members to act as a liaison to the association over the course of the investigation, Mayor Bill Baarsma said.

"Nobody likes to wash out all their laundry but it's something that has to be done," Erickson said. "Sometimes you have to bleach it, too, to make sure it comes out white."

Staff writer Kris Sherman contributed to this report.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268


The investigation team

Bellingham police detective Lt. Craige Ambrose, is a polygraph expert who has worked in Internal Affairs and run background checks for his department.

Washington State Patrol detective Sgt. Kristene O'Shannon, has conducted administrative investigations of state agencies. She's also an instructor on domestic violence issues.

Everett police detective Sgt. Jim Stillman has spent 13 years in his department's Criminal Investigations and Major Crimes units. He has also participated in the community-oriented policing program.

Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Houge, was elected in 1994. He is a graduate of the University of Washington.

Larry Erickson, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, will coordinate the investigation. He spent 16 years as the Spokane County sheriff before joining the association in 1995.