Special Reports

Citizens panel for Brame case considered

Tacoma City Council members will talk today about forming a citizens committee to participate in the investigation of the David Brame case, but the panel's role hasn't been fully determined.

Deputy mayor Bil Moss said Monday that she'll put a draft resolution before her colleagues during their Committee of the Whole meeting this afternoon.

She declined to elaborate on the proposal, because she hasn't discussed its substance with many other council members, but it's likely the committee will be charged more with information delivering than information gathering.

"I see it as the facilitator and the communicator between the council and the public and the investigations," Moss said.

When City Council members discussed the concept last week, they made it plain they wanted a committee that could offer expert advisers, if needed, to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs investigation.

But it also was clear they didn't want a group of citizens-turned-investigators.

"I think the world of Sally, but she's not asking to come in and pull the file and investigate," Councilman Kevin Phelps said last Tuesday of community activist Sally Perkins.

"No way. Uh-uh," Mayor Bill Baarsma said.

However, knowing Perkins' standing in the community, council members have said they would welcome input from her on local experts that investigators might consult in such areas as domestic violence and human resources.

Hundreds of Tacoma residents - in impassioned speeches during public meetings, in phone calls and e-mails to council members and in letters to the editor of The News Tribune - have begged the council to let citizens play a part in the city's investigation of the late police chief and his career.

Without the public involved, residents will never fully trust the process, they've said.

Perkins was among those residents, telling council members during a meeting May 6: "Citizens aren't going to get answers" if the city continues an investigation done mainly by people with law enforcement backgrounds.

Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and then killed himself with his department-issued handgun April 26 in the midst of the couple's contentious divorce proceedings.

There are two major investigations under way into troubling aspects of the case:

• How Brame got hired as a rookie cop in 1981 after he flunked a psychologist's exam.

• How he rose through the ranks to police chief despite a 1988 rape allegation that some officers believed to be true.

• And how city officials handled Crystal Brame's divorce court allegations that David Brame choked her and threatened her with his gun.

State and federal investigators are conducting one probe; the city's own "investigative audit" is being done by the police chief's association.

Council members acknowledged during discussions last week that whatever citizens committee they appoint will have to walk a fine line between suggesting experts, communicating with the public and not hampering the investigation.

"I wouldn't imagine they would be investigators, but I hope they will collaborate with investigators," Councilman Bill Evans said Monday. "We want them to be listened to."

Council members also must struggle with how many community organizations the committee can represent without becoming so unwieldy as to be dysfunctional.

Ginny Eberhardt, president of the city's Community Council, hopes each of Tacoma's eight neighborhood councils has a spot.

"I think people from each neighborhood see things differently, and we have a tremendous number of people who have expertise in different areas so they would be helpful in an investigation of this kind," Eberhardt said.

She also hopes the City Council works with citizens to determine the role they'll play, rather than simply telling them what to do.

"We can help," she said. "We are the ones who have probably the greatest direct line to the citizens."

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659


• The Tacoma City Council will meet in regular session at 5 p.m. today in council chambers at City Hall, 747 Market St. Among other issues, the council will consider whether to release city attorneys from attorney-client privilege and confidentiality rules so they can tell investigators what they know about the David Brame case.