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What Happened to James Chasse: Potter on the Death of James Chasse

Monday, September 25, 2006

Potter on the Death of James Chasse

from the Portland Mercury

Following the medical examiner’s Friday ruling that James Chasse died “as a result of a broad-based, blunt force trauma to his chest,” Mayor Tom Potter has finally come forward with a statement. (Keep in mind that the mayor is also the police commissioner, meaning he has ultimate authority over the bureau.)
I have asked that the investigation into this incident be as public and transparent as possible, and that the community be given the information it needs to understand what happened as quickly as possible.

There are several legal inquiries already underway to determine precisely what occurred during the arrest, including the possibility of a grand jury, and they each need to move forward as quickly as possible. Any request to conduct a public inquest into this death is a legal determination that only the District Attorney’s Office can make, and we will respect whatever he decides and cooperate fully.

Just as important to me is that we commit to creating a more effective system for delivering mental health services both before and after someone enters our criminal justice system. This is not an issue just for Portland Police, but rather one that calls for a solution that includes our correctional system, medical and mental health providers. I want to work with others who share these concerns to begin making real changes.
Hey, good news! The mayor wants the investigation to be “public and transparent”! Bad news—the likelihood of a grand jury means that whatever is decided will be sealed, and kept out of the public eye. If that sounds frighteningly familiar, it’s because there have been plenty of police shootings that have ended in grand juries, which have ended in exonerations for the officers—the details of which have been sealed.

It happened in Fouad Kaady’s case. It happens with shocking frequency.

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