Special Reports

No criminal charges in Brame investigation

After a six-month investigation, state and federal officials said today that they found abundant evidence of troubling management problems within the Tacoma Police Department, but nothing that warrants the filing of criminal charges.

Three investigations remain following Tacoma Police Chief David Brame's fatal shooting of his estranged wife Crystal and himself on April 26. They are:

-- An administrative investigation by the State Patrol into what Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire called ""examples of misconduct, poor judgment, troublesome behavior by top officers, lax accountability" and other deficiencies in the Tacoma Police Department.

-- An FBI investigation into possible corruption in city government, including problems with the issuance of city contracts. U.S. Attorney John McKay said he didn't know how long that investigation will take.

-- The city's own administrative review into the Brame scandal, to be conducted by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. That probe, put on hold for months during the joint federal and state investigation, can now move forward, Gregoire said.

State Patrol investigators spent more than 6,600 hours investigating the Tacoma Police Department and allegations of criminal behavior by former Deputy Chief Catherine Woodard. They interviewed more than 80 people and generated some 6,600 pages of documents. The probe cost the State Patrol more than $200,000, Chief Ronal Serpas said.

Prosecutors from the state Attorney General's Office and the King County prosecutor's office reviewed the investigation results and determined there was not enough evidence to warrant criminal charges.

But the investigation painted "a picture of a very troubled management culture in the police department," Gregoire said.

The investigation also showed a police chief who was emotionally deteriorating in the six months before the shooting, Gregoire said.

A report to Pierce County Prosecutor Gerry Horne recommends that the city use the State Patrol to investigate potential police misconduct, develop policies covering when the police department should treat internal complaints as criminal matters, investigate errors made in the hiring and promotion of Brame and adopt procedures for handling domestic violence complaints against police officers.

Besides looking at allegations of criminal misconduct, the probe was intended to point out needed changes.

"The management culture at the Tacoma Police Department needs an overhaul and these recommendations should provide a road map for reform that line officers and the people deserve," Gregoire said.

But other areas in city government must be scrutinized as well, the attorney general said. There were "plenty of opportunities" by a number of people in city government to see - and act on - David Brame's failing mental health and abandonment of some of his duties as chief, she said.

"As part of the reviews, we would ask why action wasn't taken when it was clear that many in City Hall saw an individual who was failing to attend meetings, whose appearance was unkempt and who was obsessed with talking about his personal life," Gregoire said.

Brian T. Moran, chief criminal prosecutor for the attorney general's office, and Mark Larson, chief criminal prosecutor for King County, sent a letter to Horne listing the steps needed for a thorough review of the Tacoma Police Department. Those include:

-- Whether Woodard engaged in misconduct while helping Brame with his divorce.

-- Whether Tacoma Police public information officer Jim Mattheis and detective Barry McColemen engaged in misconduct by attending a court hearing on the Brames' divorce.

-- Whether officers and employees of the police department should have advised Brame's supervisor, then-City Manager Ray Corpuz, about his failing job performance in the weeks before his death.

-- Whether officers and members of the department should have told Corpuz about Brame's preoccupation with sex and sexual topics in the workplace.

-- Whether the promotion of at least one police officer was made on the basis of sexual activities or other inappropriate relationships.

-- Whether favoritism and other inappropriate factors played a role in past disciplinary matters.

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