Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Tacoma police condemned
State's Brame inquiry finds no crime, but improper conduct
By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
A six-month investigation into the troubled Tacoma Police Department didn't come up with proof of criminal wrongdoing but did reveal a broken organization, top state officials said yesterday.
State Attorney General Christine Gregoire said the department needs an overhaul and detectives with the Washington State Patrol will stay on the job, looking into the department's bankrupt management culture.
The result could be administrative sanctions against officers who violated rules of conduct.
Gregoire spoke at a news conference called to announce the findings of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death in April of Tacoma police Chief David Brame, who fatally shot his estranged wife and himself.
A letter from Gregoire to Pierce County prosecutors said patrol detectives "found no evidence to indicate that the Tacoma Police Department is a criminally corrupt organization." But they did uncover examples of:
Discrimination and harassment.
Conflicting and illegal orders.
Failure to investigate domestic violence.
Conducting personal business on duty.
Improper use of department equipment.
Improper evidence handling.
Standing at Gregoire's side, Washington State Patrol Chief Ronal Serpas said his detectives will continue to dissect the inner workings of the Tacoma department with an eye toward holding officers accountable for lapses that fall short of a crime but are grist for administrative sanctions. And unlike a criminal investigation in which the targets don't have to cooperate with detectives, police employees contacted for the administrative inquiry have the choice of either talking or losing their job, Serpas said.
Gregoire noted that the standards for administrative action are not as rigorous as those in a criminal prosecution. Sanctions could be as severe as being fired.
Tacoma City Manager Jim Walton vowed yesterday to follow through on the results of the State Patrol's investigation by levying administrative sanctions against those who break Police Department rules. "If we are ever to restore public trust and confidence, we have to be willing to make the tough calls," said Walton.
Among the matters up for investigation is whether David Brame's interest in group sex intruded on police business -- particularly "whether the promotion of at least one Tacoma Police Department officer, and perhaps others, was made on the basis of inappropriate sexual activities or other relationships," according to a letter from Gregoire's office to the Pierce County prosecutor.
Brame's tenure as police chief was marked by his autocratic rule, according to the investigation. The patrol inquiry will also look at "whether, in past disciplinary matters, favoritism and other inappropriate factors played a role, calling into question the integrity and fairness of the disciplinary process in the department as a whole."
One example of potential bias in the disciplinary process is mentioned in the report as part of a pattern in which "members of the Tacoma Police Department recognized possible criminal law violations, but did not treat them as such."
The report alludes to allegations from a Tacoma police officer that bribery may have played a role in the release of a prominent architect arrested last year after he allegedly defied a construction flagger and almost hit him with his car. Sgt. Robert Blystone ordered arresting Officer Joe Bundy to release architect Leroy Pardini after Pardini was heard to brag about his connections to city hall and asked, "What will it take to make this go away?"
Blystone denied accepting a bribe. Pardini told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he would not dignify the question of whether he tried to offer a bribe with a response.
Bundy reported the incident as a potential bribery attempt. But, according to the Attorney General's Office's letter, it "was never investigated as a criminal matter, never referred to a prosecutor for review and was addressed solely as an internal-affairs matter."
Instead, Bundy was brought up on administrative charges for raising the matter and investigated by the Police Department's internal-affairs unit on accusations that included insubordination. Blystone was transferred to internal affairs in the middle of the investigation, the P-I reported in August. Blystone was recently named Tacoma officer of the year.
The report notes that the FBI continues to review the incident.
Also present yesterday at the news conference was U.S. Attorney John McKay. He confirmed the FBI is continuing a public-corruption inquiry in Tacoma focusing on contract fraud but not limited to that area.
Meanwhile, Crystal Brame's family is pursuing a $75 million lawsuit against the city of Tacoma. The lawsuit alleges that Police Department failures left David Brame with a badge and gun after his wife accused him of domestic violence. And that, the family maintains, led to Crystal Brame's death.
In a statement, the family called Gregoire's comments "a ringing indictment of misconduct within the highest levels of Tacoma's law enforcement and city government. The report in no way exonerates the city for its actions, which ultimately led to Crystal's murder. While the city continues to deny responsibility, the attorney general said today that people within the Tacoma police and city government watched David Brame's troubled behavior for more than six months and did nothing to stop him. We will learn the full truth behind Crystal's murder. We are moving ahead with our civil suit, and hope that the information we will gain through the sworn testimony of those involved helps the city put its house in order, and allows us some closure to this horrid chapter of our lives."
The shootings, which took place while the couple's young children sat in a nearby car, led to an upheaval in city government. Ray Corpuz Jr., the city's longtime manager, ultimately was fired. Catherine Woodard was placed on paid administrative leave shortly after her appointment to fill in for the dead chief; last week, a police pension board ruled she could retire on disability pay. There were questions whether Woodard acted inappropriately as an intermediary between Brame and his estranged wife.
Gregoire said that no criminal charges would be brought against Woodard but that she "demonstrated extraordinarily poor judgment."
"The lack of sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against Woodard or others by no means indicates all is well with management of the Tacoma Police Department," Gregoire said. "The evidence paints a picture of a very troubled management culture in the department."
The police LYING???!!!! I'm stunned. I can't believe the police are lying. I don't know what to do without my 911 speed dial!!!
I do not know what is going on today any more, I pick up my local newspaper and I see
Police Officer chatged in theft case
Police Officer charged in sex case
Police Officer charged in falsifying documents case
And all this is just local.
It seems that the LEO's are of a inferior grade nowadays.
edit: not all but most.