Special Reports

Brame got 2 thumbs down: 'Marginal applicant, prognosis poor,' psychologist said in '81

A second psychologist who interviewed David Brame in 1981 said he would not recommend Tacoma police hire Brame but said he could not reject him under state medical standards, documents released Friday show.

"It appears Mr. Brame is a marginal police officer applicant and the prognosis for his developing into an above average officer is judged poor at this time," James H. Shaw wrote in the Nov. 17, 1981, report.

"While this examiner would not recommend Mr. Brame be hired as a police officer, he does not display either the pathology or the history which would result in his rejection."

That standard for passing a mental and health exam - required for becoming a law enforcement officer in Washington's state - is set by the Law Enforcement Officers' and Firefighters retirement system.

Shaw also noted that Brame had failed the "behavioral portion" of the entrance exam for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Paul Pastor learned Friday from Tacoma police that Brame had applied to be a member of Sheriff's Department in 1981. Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said the department will try to confirm that Monday.

Shaw's report said Brame was uneasy and awkward in unfamiliar situations, defensive, overly cautious and had a "tendency to exaggerate his potential to the point of being deceptive."

He recommended that Brame be closely supervised during his probation after starting work.

Shaw's evaluation came more than two weeks after another psychologist, Steven H. Sutherland, said Brame should not be hired.

Nevertheless, six days after Shaw's evaluation, then-Police Chief R.A. Amundsen sent a letter to Brame to inform the 23-year-old East Side man that he'd been hired and was to report for duty on the first of December.

It was unclear Friday why Brame was hired despite the two psychologists' recommendations. Shaw could not be reached Friday.

"As far as I am concerned, he still failed the process," said Jim Knutsen, a retired Tacoma assistant police chief who was a captain in the training division when Brame applied to be an officer. "He would never have been hired based on the second psychological."

Brame later was promoted through the ranks of the department, eventually becoming its chief in 2002. On April 26, he fatally shot his wife, Crystal, then committed suicide as they battled through a contentious divorce.

Since then, details about his law enforcement career have emerged and raised questions about why he was hired in 1981, how he remained on the force despite a rape allegation in 1989 and why he was promoted to chief despite questions about his past.

Last week, Tacoma police released Brame's personnel and pre-employment file, which includes a letter from Sutherland, who did a required psychological evaluation of Brame and recommended against hiring him.

Sutherland provided no details of how he came to his decision in the letter. Interviewed recently by The News Tribune, he said he did not remember the Brame evaluation and could not say how he came to his conclusions.

Friday, Tacoma police released a separate, 23-page file containing Brame's background investigation, personal history statement, medical history and the results of an electrocardiograph.

The officer who conducted the background investigation, identified as Sgt. J. Richburg, also raised concerns about Brame.

Though he concluded Brame appeared to have all the qualifications needed to become a Tacoma officer, he thought Brame would have problems on the force.

"He is very quiet individual who speaks only when it is of interest to him," Richburg wrote. "His introvert-type of personality and lack of life's experiences makes it very doubtful that he will survive probation."

Richburg recommended Brame be hired "with reservations and special attention to be paid to Dr. Sutherland's psychological findings."

As part of the investigation, Richburg talked to Brame's previous employers, father, brother, father-in-law, wife and family friends.

Among those interviewed was Tacoma police officer Dave Davidson, a friend of Brame's older brother, Gene, who also was a Tacoma officer.

Davidson told Richburg that David Brame was often reserved and quiet. He said Brame would not say hello or acknowledge Davidson's presence at the Brame family home.

"Davidson said, to his knowledge, David Brame does not socialize with anyone his age," Richburg wrote. "Davidson felt Dave Brame hinged on anti-social behavior."

However, another person interviewed praised Brame as "the most wonderful boy she knows and wished she had a son just like him," according to Richburg's report.

Shaw, in addition to his negative findings, said Brame was "a bright, verbally fluent person who values work and intellectual achievement. Further, he appears to be methodical, conventional and conservative in his social life and at work."

Shaw's evaluation apparently was done after Brame appealed Sutherland's recommendation to the city's personnel department. Shaw's report was addressed to the city's personnel director and forwarded to the police department.

Job applicants have the right to appeal their psychological evaluations, Knutsen said. The applicant could pay for a second opinion. If two opinions differed, the doctors would chose a third psychologist, whose conclusion would be the final say, Knutsen said.

"There should have been a third, and that's the one we would have used," Knutsen said of Brame's hiring.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268