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What Happened to James Chasse: LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - 10/19/06

Thursday, October 19, 2006


from The Oregonian

Chasse decision: Multiple failures revealed

For five years, before becoming an attorney, I worked as a mental health counselor in Washington and Oregon.

James P. Chasse Jr.'s death is a tragedy created because the Portland Police Bureau, like the rest of the public, has chosen to defund the mental health system.

Notwithstanding the duty owed to these disabled people and their large concentration in Portland, it should come as no shock to us that our police are so ignorant that they lack the special training necessary to recognize a mentally ill person when they see one. Portland police were even told two days earlier about Chasse going off of his medication ("No indictment in Chasse death," Oct. 18).

This is not the first time that the mentally ill have died in encounters with police in Portland, and it is not the first time folks have apologized and called for improvements in training. Nothing really changes other than the system's efforts to do better politicking before the next time.

It is time for all police officers to receive real professional training about mental illness.

I still cannot understand how [possibly] urinating in public is such a dangerous crime as to justify the use of force sufficient to kill a man.


One sentence in the Wednesday article about the grand jury's finding no criminal wrongdoing in James P. Chasse Jr.'s death shocked me beyond belief: "The officers involved were not specially trained to deal with the mentally ill."

In January 1992, Nathan Thomas, a 12-year-old boy in my neighborhood, was accidentally shot in the course of an incident involving a mentally ill intruder. Portland police vowed that their officers would have more training in handling the mentally ill. Clearly, this still has not occurred.

That any police officer on duty in downtown Portland can not be specifically trained in handling this population is a travesty. This population is rapidly expanding. How many terrified, mentally ill people will be injured or killed like Chasse, and how many lawsuits will the city of Portland endure until it makes good on its promise of nearly 15 years ago?

Northeast Portland

The explanation of how James P. Chasse Jr. died, by Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, insults the intelligence of anyone with an IQ greater than 50. By her explanation, any football game played on AstroTurf would result in a great number of broken ribs.

Chasse's ribs were broken with kicks and knee drops. Don't hold your breath waiting for a public inquest. These travesties of justice will continue to occur until the public gets a say in these biased investigations.


I think the medical personnel had fault here, but also I believe James P. Chasse Jr. died because the police went too far. I don't believe a man suffers 16 broken ribs when another man "accidentally" falls on him.

The problem is one of multiple failures. Police are not trained to talk to people. So a man died because he might have urinated in public. People who are mentally ill, retarded, high, drunk or experiencing lots of tics and yelling because they have Tourette Syndrome do not deserve to be shot. Often nothing they are doing requires an arrest.

Chasse could have been given a ticket instead of being chased down, restrained, beaten and stunned.

People who are confused, agitated and upset don't respond well to being yelled at, chased or alarmed. Quiet, calm people (as in trained crisis teams) would be a great alternative to nervous, aggressive officers.

Southeast Portland

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