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What Happened to James Chasse: Cop lied to witness about Chasse’s drug-use

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Cop lied to witness about Chasse’s drug-use

from the Portland Mercury, by Matt Davis

A Portland Police Officer told a bystander who witnessed the arrest of James Phillip Chasse on September 17 that Chasse had “14 former convictions for crack cocaine,” and how he and his colleagues “found a vial of crack cocaine on him” that night. This is according to the cops’ investigative report into Chasse’s death, which has just been released.

What one unnamed officer apparently told witness Constance Doolan, is not true—Portland Police Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz says Chasse had no record, and that no crack was found on him on the night of September 17. Nor did he have any drugs in his bloodstream, according to the autopsy.

Many will read this as the officer’s attempt to justify his colleagues’ use of force in arresting Chasse. Unfortunately, the investigating officers do not appear to have asked Ms.Doolan which officer told her this, or for a description of him to try to ascertain who he was. From the investigation’s transcripts, their only response to the accusation was “Um-hm”.

It is rare for officers to be fired for use of force, but officers have been sacked for lying in the past.

“Usually officers don’t get fired for use of force, but for lying, cheating, or stealing,” says Portland Copwatch activist Dan Handelman, “Officers in the past have been fired for being untruthful—an officer lied over whether he backed his car into a phone pole a couple of years ago and got fired for that, I believe. This is just one witness’s statement, but if it happened, then it’s pretty outrageous.”

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