Special Reports

State Patrol can finish interviews with police

A Washington State Patrol investigation into alleged misconduct by City of Tacoma employees is set to wrap up soon with the interviews of eight high-ranking police officials following an agreement between the city and the officials' union.

City Manager Jim Walton and leaders of the Tacoma Police Management Association Local 26 signed a "memorandum of understanding" late Wednesday, laying the ground rules for how the State Patrol will interview the eight individuals.

It clears the way for the State Patrol to finish an investigation into allegations of administrative misconduct by 32 city and police employees, including eight lieutenants and captains.

The investigation is being conducted on behalf of the city into allegations that surfaced as a result of the David Brame scandal. State Patrol officials expect to wrap it up shortly after the remaining eight interviews are completed.

The final interviews will begin next week and possibly conclude by the end of the week, said State Patrol Lt. Marc Lamoreaux. A final report could be handed over to the city later this month, he said.

Local 26 went to court in January to block the investigation, arguing that it violated its collective bargaining agreement. In addition, the union filed an unfair labor practices complaint last month with the Public Employment Relations Commission.

As part of the agreement, the union will withdraw the complaint and drop its civil lawsuit.

The agreement also:

•Designates Walton as the person with the power to make decisions regarding the investigation. Typically, it's the police chief who decides whether an allegation warrants an internal affairs investigation.

•Spells out how the union can object if it believes a State Patrol interviewer violates the bargaining agreement.

•Says that once the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the city manager to determine what to do with it.

•Requires that no information be released to the public during the course of the investigation. And once it's complete, the agreement requires the city to follow "present practice," meaning that only information regarding sustained complaints will be released.

Walton said Thursday that he was frustrated by the delay but satisfied the agreement will allow investigators to get to the truth.

Police Capt. Mark Langford, president of the union, was sensitive to the perception that the union was trying to slow down or interfere with the investigation.

"That was the not case," Langford said. "We were merely trying to adjust the contract so the investigation could proceed."

There's nothing about either this agreement or the union's labor contract that prevents investigators from determining misconduct, Langford said.

Tacoma Police Union Local 6, which represents some 320 sworn officers, did not take legal action to stop the State Patrol from interviewing its members. But the union insisted that interviewers comply with the terms of its contract.

Only three of its members were on the list of 32 targeted in the State Patrol investigation.

The administrative investigation, in which city and police employees are suspected of violating city rules, began following the conclusion of a separate six-month criminal investigation in which no charges were filed.

The misconduct, if proven, could lead to discipline, including suspension and firings.

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542


SIDEBAR: What's next?

•Washington State Patrol investigators will interview eight high-ranking Tacoma police officers before they complete their investigation of possible misconduct by city employees. Proven misconduct could lead to discipline, including suspension and firings.

•A so-called administrative audit of city policies and practices that led to the hiring and promotion of David Brame as police chief and other issues surrounding the Brame scandal is nearly finished. Interviews are concluded and the report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is finished. It's awaiting review, said Jim LaMunyon, deputy executive director of WASPC.