Special Reports

Council gets report on Brame today

The Tacoma City Council this morning will hear the results of a long-awaited investigation into the career of Tacoma Police Chief David Brame.

Larry Erickson, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, is scheduled to present the findings of its investigation during a special City Council meeting. The report comes one year and four days after a shell-shocked council ordered that the investigation be done in the wake of Brame fatally shooting his wife, Crystal, and then killing himself.

City officials have closely guarded the contents of the report since receiving it Monday, in part to allow the city's legal staff time to review it and censor some personal information such as Social Security numbers and medical information.

"Based on the information available, based on the people who were interviewed and were willing to be interviewed, it tells the story of David Brame," Mayor Bill Baarsma said Thursday. But he declined to disclose details, saying he spent only a few minutes looking at the 25-page executive summary before it was handed over to city attorneys. The full report is 1,000 pages long, he said.

A separate investigation into alleged misconduct by at least 32 city and police department employees linked to the Brame case remains under wraps at City Hall while City Manager Jim Walton reviews it.

Baarsma offered few details of the report being released today, except to say that about 20 people were interviewed.

The report is meant to answer many of the questions raised a year ago in the days following the shootings, including how Brame managed to get hired in 1981 after failing a psychological exam and how he was promoted to chief in 2001 despite a 1988 rape allegation that investigators deemed "credible."

The so-called administrative audit into his hiring and promotion was the first of several investigations spawned by the shootings, but it was delayed for months while the Washington State Patrol conducted a criminal investigation.

Ginny Eberhardt, co-chair of the 21-member citizens advisory panel appointed to review the findings, said the group remains ready to go to work, but its members have grown impatient with the wait, and some are questioning the way the city is releasing the information.

City officials announced the special City Council meeting Wednesday and scheduled a news conference to follow, alerting media throughout the South Sound of the impending report.

"Now all of a sudden it's a media event instead of giving us the report," Eberhardt said.

She's also concerned that the city will release only the executive summary today and not the entire report.

"I don't have much confidence at all that the executive summary is going to give us what we need," Eberhardt said. One of the roles of the citizens panel is to review the report and recommend any actions it deems necessary to correct procedural flaws that contributed to the Brame scandal.

Baarsma said he didn't know what City Council members might do once they receive the report or what changes it might prompt in city government. A lot has changed since Brame was hired as a rookie patrol officer in 1981, Baarsma said.

"I think it will become clear that 25 years ago there were decisions made and practices and policies that reflected the tenor of the times," Baarsma said. "Things are different now."

Still, the mayor said he realizes people are anxious to see the report and its conclusions.

Acting City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli said Thursday that the goal is to make the entire report available to the public today, but she couldn't guarantee that would be possible.

Baarsma said there were several reasons the city waited to release the report. In addition to giving time for the city's attorneys to review it, he also wanted to wait for some City Council members to arrive back in town. And he was sensitive about releasing it on the same day as Wednesday's funeral service for Tacoma police officer Jim Lewis, who was killed last week in a traffic collision.

He promised Thursday that all of the information in the report will be made public.

"It's going be all hung out," Baarsma said. "And I'll be happy to comment further tomorrow after I've heard the report."

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542


How to get involved

The Tacoma City Council meets at 10 a.m. today in council chambers at City Hall, 747 Market St.

SIDEBAR: The WASPC investigation at a glance

May 1, 2003: Then-City Manager Ray Corpuz announces a team of investigators from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs will conduct "a thoroughgoing, no-holds-barred investigation" on behalf of the city into:

•"The hiring of David Brame as a police recruit."

•"The 21-year-career of David Brame with the Tacoma Police Department, including promotions and assignments."

•"The personal conduct of David Brame on and off duty as it relates to the high standards that Tacoma police officers are required to maintain in their personal and professional lives. This includes allegations regarding marital relations."

•"The Tacoma Police Department's policies and practices related to hiring, promotion, discipline and record keeping."

•"Who had information, including me (Corpuz) on the issues surrounding David Brame, when they knew it, and what they did with it."

•"Any other matters which the team's investigators determine are appropriate and relevant to the overall purposes of this investigation."

May 2, 2003: Tacoma Police Department adds details of what investigators will look for in Brame's personal life, including:

•Who knew about either Brame's marital problems or a past rape allegation against him, when they got that information and what was told to others, including police command staff.

•Investigators also were told to find out whether any action was taken as a result of the rape allegation and what the reasoning was behind it.

Kris Sherman, The News Tribune