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What Happened to James Chasse: LETTER TO THE EDITOR - 10/25/06

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

LETTER TO THE EDITOR - 10/25/06

from The Oregonian
Chasse death reverberates
I am always amazed by how many people become experts on police tactics when a suspect dies in a confrontation with cops. The James P. Chasse Jr. incident was unfortunate. Everyone can agree on that, but the officers involved did not intend for him to die.

Officers arrest thousands of people each year, and many of those suspects fight. I would encourage all the armchair quarterbacks with black belts and nursing degrees to consider a career in law enforcement. Then they can solve all the problems instead of just whining about them.

If you have never been in a real fight, you have no idea how difficult it is trying to take one person into custody if he is resisting.

The men and women of the Portland Police Bureau are smart, well trained, and most of all compassionate and caring. That's why they do the job. I worked for the Police Bureau for more than 20 years and once had to kill a robbery suspect who took a hostage. I did not go to work that day hoping to kill someone, but cops don't get to choose the calls they get sent to.

We have thrown our mentally ill citizens on the street to eat out of Dumpsters and sleep in doorways. Most people have the ability to just ignore them. Police don't have that option. So don't complain about what the police can do better with the mentally ill; let's examine what we as Oregonians can do to help these people.

CAPT. C.W. JENSEN
Retired, Portland Police Bureau
Northwest Portland

The death of James P. Chasse Jr. at the hands of police was horrific and unconscionable, sowing fear and grief throughout Oregon. The grand jury ruling exonerating the officers of criminal wrongdoing only perpetuated our collective shock.

Thankfully, The Oregonian published an editorial plea for "a new determination by the mayor and chief that this death be the last" ("Chasse's death demands public inquest, illumination," Oct. 18).

Chasse's death was not inevitable. It was not due to the failure of our mental health system. It was preventable. Effective and respectful law enforcement interventions for people with mental health diagnoses exist around the nation. Such training should be mandatory for all dispatchers and officers.

A commitment by Mayor Tom Potter and Police Chief Rosie Sizer to meet with and engage in a civic dialogue with people who use mental health services would be a welcome first step toward this goal.

BECKIE CHILD
President
Mental Health Association of Oregon
Southwest Portland

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