Here's a comment that came in today that needs to be moved up to a post of its own. It's about Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys, the central figure in the violent death at police hands of James Chasse Jr. Portland attorney Travis Eiva writes:
Last year, I represented a young man in a Federal police misconduct case against the Portland Police. The claims in that case alleged that Officer Humphreys and three other Portland officers stood over a 19 year old man and beat him with a flashlight, a steel baton, boots, fists, pepper spray, and three tazer deployments. Officer Humphreys struck the young man across the shins and midsection with a steel baton about 30 times during the incident. I certainly would not object to someone calling Officer Humphreys "overzealous" in his use of force.
All the while the young man screamed for "help." Independent witnesses described the screams as horrific. Independent witnesses stated that the young man did not "resist" the officers and that the young man was simply trying to protect himself from the officer violence. By the way, it was a case of mistaken identity; the young man did not commit an underlying crime to lead to the officer melee.
In March 2006, the city took a sizable judgment against itself on the above case in return for dismissal against the individual officers. City Council reviewed the settlement before it was approved. For me, this settlement brings up two major points when thought about in the context of the Chasse incident:
1. Prior to the Chasse incident, City Council was on notice that there were serious allegations of excessive force againt Officer Humphreys; AND
2.The City has already taken a bullet for Officer Humphreys in the past, i.e. negotiated a deal that protected him from personal culpability for violent actions.
So now I have a couple of questions:
1. What does the City do when it takes a judgment against itself for its more "aggressive" officers? After the judgment, did the City require that Humphreys be re-trained on the use of force or did they just send him back on his next shift?
2. How powerful is the Portland Police Union? Too powerful?
One more thing: Portland Police are trained in many things. They are forced to take a number of mandatory classes, such as shooting guns, executing distraction strikes (i.e. how to make kicks and punches most effective), using steel batons, and using minor traffic violations as a pretext to stop young men who wear their pants too low. Every officer takes classes on the above subject matter. There are also a number of optional classes. Many officers do not take these classes. As of last I was aware, there is an OPTIONAL class on officer contact with mentally ill individuals, that trains the officer in how to appropriately manage interactions with folks who suffer from mental illness. I would bet my dollars against anyone's doughnuts that our Chasse Officers did not sign up for that class. With a certain lawusit to follow the Chasse incident, I wonder how much the City coffers will have to bleed, not to mention mentally ill people brutalized, to make up for this lapse of judgment on the part of police officer training.
Too bad it came in late on a Friday afternoon, when all the dirt seems to come out and the fewest people are paying attention. But I'm sure you'll agree, it's interesting nonetheless.