Special Reports

New Brame documents shed light on his hiring

Newly discovered documents released Thursday by the City of Tacoma partially answer lingering questions in the David Brame scandal.

The documents help explain how the former chief got his first job with the police department, and show that he was pronounced fit for duty after being accused of rape in 1988.

Brame was evaluated by three psychologists prior to his hire in 1981. Though two of the reports were previously made public, city officials only recently found the third while an employee in the personnel department was cleaning out old files.

Brame, who rose through the ranks to become the city’s police chief in 2003, fatally shot his wife, Crystal, on April 26, 2003. The couple was in the midst of a nasty divorce at the time.

In the newly found report, consulting psychologist John O. Larsgaard said he was impressed with Brame and his deportment and believed Brame “would make a very fine young policeman,” who could become a valuable asset to the Tacoma Police Department.

But Larsgaard also concluded that Brame answered the questions in one personality test in way to give “socially approved answers regarding self-control and moral values“ while minimizing and smoothing over his faults.

Larsgaard, who evaluated Brame a month after Sutherland, said he couldn’t explain the differences between his evaluation and a negative assessment by Steven H. Sutherland but he believed Brame deserved another look.

Sutherland’s report said he believed Brame was depressed, dependent and immature and his personality would “contribute to potential danger for him, his fellow officers and the community at large.

A third psychologist, James H. Shaw, concluded Brame was “a marginal police applicant” and his prospects for developing into an above average police officer were poor. But he also said the department’s field training officers were “in an excellent position to evaluate marginal applicants under actual field conditions.”

Given standards restricting determination of fitness, Shaw recommended Brame be hired but supervised closely during his probationary period.

With that combination of a negative report, a positive assessment and a marginal ruling, Brame was hired as a rookie officer.

Brame had been accused of rape in 1988, but the charge was not sustained, meaning it could not be proven.

In a one-page fitness report following an evaluation of Brame by Shaw after the rape allegation, Shaw told city officials that despite the stress of the investigation Brame was “responding in a satisfactory manner.” Shaw said Brame didn’t request nor appear to need any counseling.

That report, also released Thursday, made no mention of the alleged rape, referring to only his involvement in an investigation “which was quite stressful to Officer Brame.”

The files on Brame were among a group of approximately 120 old personnel files dating from 1980 through 1993.

Crystal Brame’s family filed a $10 million wrongful death claim against the city following last summer. The claim was later converted to a lawsuit, asking for unspecified damages.

Crystal’s parents, Lane and Patty Judson, have said they want to know how a man with such personality flaws could be hired as a police officer and rise through the ranks to become chief and why city officials didn’t strip him of his gun and badge after they learned of Crystal Brame’s allegations that her husband had threatened to kill her.