Special Reports

Investigation: Sheriffs, police chiefs team will solicit help from cities group to examine Brame's past

To help handle its expanding role, the outside investigation of the late Tacoma Police Chief David Brame will not include just police investigators, the review's coordinator said Wednesday.

Investigators will consult the Association of Washington Cities after being asked to examine what city officials knew about Brame's past and messy divorce and what they did with the information.

"They are more than willing to help," said Larry Erickson, the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. "They'll give us the look we need."

The experts on city government and human resource issues will aid Erickson's team of three police investigators and Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge.

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, several Tacoma residents criticized the makeup of the team, contending a police association should not investigate a police chief and his department.

Tacoma city officials hired WASPC to conduct an outside review of Brame's career after questions arose over his hiring, promotion to chief, a rape allegation and his contentious divorce.

Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, then committed suicide April 26 in Gig Harbor.

Since Erickson named his team Friday, the scope of its investigation has grown as the review was outlined first by City Manager Ray Corpuz and then by the City Council.

The council wants investigators to examine who in the police department and city government knew about Brame's past and messy divorce.

"I don't think it could get much broader than what the City Council has decided on," Erickson said. "They wanted us to do whatever we felt was necessary."

Investigators are reviewing boxes of documents from the police department and are starting to interview witnesses.

Erickson said the investigation will be chronological, starting with how Brame was hired despite a clinical psychologist's recommendation against him in 1981.

When the investigators get to Brame's appointment as police chief in 2001 and his pending divorce in 2003, Erickson said he'll consult with the Association of Washington Cities for expertise on personnel and city government issues.

"We aren't human resources people," Erickson said of his team. "We're going to play it to do it the best way we can."

Police commanders have ordered officers to answer investigators' questions about what they know, Erickson said.

City employees have not received such instructions.

Because there is no active criminal or civil litigation in the case, no subpoenas will be issued or depositions taken.

"We're relying on people's willingness to tell the truth at this stage," Hauge said.

Erickson said he has not asked city employees to avoid talking with reporters. Acting City Manager Jim Walton said he has not done so either.

"No one from this office has or will ask you to refrain from talking to the media," Walton said in a statement Wednesday to city workers. "All I ask is that you listen to your heart and do what you feel is right."

The City Council has hired Hauge as a special city attorney for the duration of the outside review. He will work with the City Council and the outside investigators on legal issues related to the Brame case.

He will advise investigators about what they can and cannot do, about disclosure laws and about city employees' rights. He'll also answer the City Council's legal questions.

"It also means I can be told things in confidence by the council and I am obligated to keep their confidence," Hauge said.

Erickson didn't put a timeline on the investigation, but said it would take at least a month.

"We're going to take as much time as we need to review it," he said. "Speed is not as important as thoroughness."

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268