Special Reports

Brame files must be released

Long-suppressed investigative records related to the David Brame scandal must be released Friday, a state court ruled Wednesday.

The order from Eric Schmidt, court commissioner of Division II of the state Court of Appeals, requires the City of Tacoma to release the records after 4:30 p.m. Friday unless members of a Tacoma police union fight the decision.

The union is running out of appeal options. The Tacoma Police Management Association, which represents lieutenants and captains, can ask for a full review of Schmidt’s decision by a panel of Appeals Court judges or seek relief from the state Supreme Court.

Mark Langford, union president, said the 19-member union will hold a general membership meeting today to discuss a possible appeal.

“I think it’s probably unlikely,” Langford said.

The records, contained on 33 computer disks, come from an administrative investigation of city and police department employees conducted in 2004 by the Washington State Patrol.

Spurred by the events of April 26, 2003, when Police Chief Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal Judson Brame, and himself, the investigation examined allegations of misconduct against 33 employees, concluding in most cases that they did nothing wrong.

The News Tribune requested the records more than a year ago, but the city refused to disclose them, saying the investigation was continuing. The newspaper renewed its request in August of this year, and the city agreed to release the records.

At that point, the police union sought a court order to block disclosure. The union argued that release of the records would violate its members’ privacy.

In September, a lower court ruled against the union and ordered the records released. The union appealed to the state court. Wednesday’s ruling revolved around the union’s request for a stay, which would have later permitted a full argument in front of the court.

Union attorney Steve Hansen argued that disclosure of the records would violate the privacy of eight union members targeted by the investigation and hinder effective law enforcement. Also, he said, city leaders previously promised union members that records would not be released if allegations against the police employees were not substantiated.

Attorneys for the city and The News Tribune argued that the allegations in the records already have been disclosed by previous investigations of the Brame scandal. That meant questions of privacy and effective law enforcement no longer mattered, they said.

“The city has now carefully concluded that in this case and at this time, disclosure is appropriate,” said Assistant City Attorney Cheryl Carlson.

“There is no harm in releasing these records,” said Shelley Hall, attorney for The News Tribune. “The harm is in withholding them any longer.”

Schmidt rejected the union’s arguments, siding with attorneys for the city and the newspaper. He noted that the union provided no evidence to support its claim of privacy violations and hindrances to effective law enforcement.

“The officers’ appeal is totally devoid of merit,” Schmidt said.