free website hit counter
What Happened to James Chasse: 2006-10-29

Friday, November 3, 2006

Act now to help the mentally ill

from Portland Tribune

For a state and city known more for lengthy public process and less for immediate results, it was impressive Tuesday that a group of elected officials, mental health advocates and public safety officials agreed it was time to stop talking and instead act immediately to assist the mentally ill.

The scene was the first meeting of a Mental Health and Public Safety Task Force convened by Portland Mayor Tom Potter following the death of James Chasse Jr., a mentally ill man who died Sept. 17 in a struggle with Portland police officers seeking to arrest him.

State Sen. Avel Gordly of Portland, who will chair the task force with Potter, set the tone of the meeting and made an impassioned declaration for action. “We don’t need any more studies. We need to act on what we already know. We are going to do the things we need to do.”

Meanwhile, Chasse’s death already has prompted Potter to call on the city to spend $500,000 in the next two years to train police officers on how to better deal with the mentally ill. Multnomah County officials also are talking about instituting additional crisis-intervention training for county sheriff’s deputies and jail personnel.

But while the spotlight is on the tragic death of Chasse, Portland is not alone in the mental-health crisis. Over the past few months, confrontations between suburban law-enforcement personnel and people suffering from mental illness, severe depression or excessive alcohol or drug use have ended in three other violent deaths from police-involved shootings.

While each of these deaths is a tragedy, the crisis of how to better serve the mentally ill is not exclusively about police officers’ actions and training.

It’s important to understand that Oregon has largely abandoned its mentally ill citizens, many of whom eventually become homeless. Changes in state policies, including mental hospital closures and funding cutbacks, have placed more mentally ill within communities that don’t have resources to provide needed services.

Along the way, studies on the needs of mentally ill Oregonians have been completed, but only gather dust.

To change these unacceptable dynamics, several things need to happen quickly:

• The Potter-Gordly task force must complete a plan of action by mid-January calling for specific strategic and measurable steps to be taken to assist Portland’s mentally ill.

• A plan to fund these immediate recommendations must be created.

• Potter must call upon his fellow regional mayors and county commissioners to adopt and implement parallel action plans in their own communities.

• An inventory of mental illness assistance programs successfully used in nearby states, such as Washington and California, should be completed and considered as additional solutions here in Oregon.

• Local officials, along with mental-health advocates, must convince the 2007 Oregon Legislature that it is time for the state to adequately fund improvements to the state hospital and within community-based mental illness programs.

• State and local officials should build a partnership with advertising agencies and Portland-area media to help illustrate that those who are sick with mental illness can vitally contribute to their community if given a bit of assistance and the opportunity to do so.

Taking these and other steps won’t bring back James Chasse Jr.

But they should compel the community and state, regional and local agencies to address what each must do differently and better for our mentally ill – starting now.

Action pledged on jail problems

from the Portland Tribune

Report: Sheriff, county blamed for some of the priciest facilities in U.S.

Incoming Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Lisa Naito are vowing to tackle a variety of issues raised by District Attorney Michael Schrunk’s bombshell of a report on management of the county jail system.

On Wednesday, Schrunk released a scathing report finding that the county has “some of the most expensive jails of any urban area in the nation,” citing a variety of mismanagement including “rampant” sick-time abuse at the jail system overseen by elected county Sheriff Bernie Giusto.

The report accuses both Giusto and the elected board of county commissioners of a lack of oversight.

Giusto scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. Thursday, after the Portland Tribune went to press. But whether he says so or not, the internal reaction at his office may very well echo that of Gary Walker, a 28-year Multnomah County sheriff’s office veteran who engineered Giusto’s first campaign before taking a job as Commissioner Lonnie Roberts’ chief of staff.

“It’s a fairly thorough report that requires a fairly thorough review,” Walker said, but added, “There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be questioned.”

For instance, Walker questioned the report’s method of calculating expenses for comparison with other jails. He also questioned the idea of the board having a jail oversight committee, saying it would not respect the independence of the sheriff: “Is the DA going to have a oversight committee to look at (how it handles) the grand jury?” he said.

Wheeler, for his part, told the Portland Tribune on Thursday that fixing the problems cited by the report would be an “immediate priority for my administration when I take office in January. However, I’m not going to wait until January to do something. As a starting point I’ve already asked the board of commissioners for authority to hire outside assistance to design a Multnomah County public safety plan that will address the operational cost issues that the district attorney identified.”

The report, which spanned 63 pages plus 72 pages of appendices, was requested by Commissioner Lisa Naito. In the wake of its release she called it “quite disturbing” in an interview with the Tribune.

She promised to introduce a resolution at the board’s Nov. 30 meeting that would set up a work group to figure out how to implement the DA’s recommendations.

The four-month review entailed the hiring of a financial consultant, hundreds of hours of interviews and trips to jails around the Pacific Northwest as well as to nationally recognized facilities in Florida.

Among the findings:

• Multnomah County pays $157 per inmate per day, compared with $111 a day in King County, Wash.; $103 a day in Clark County, Wash.; and $89 a day in Oregon’s Washington County.

• Although the number of jail beds has been cut by a fifth since 2000, the sheriff’s jail budget has risen by 10 percent after being adjusted for inflation.

• Citing budget pressures, Giusto closed the two least expensive jails in the system in 2005, housing inmates instead at the two remaining facilities. They were more expensive, with up to three times the cost per inmate.

• Overgenerous labor contracts.

• Management practices that have allowed the abuse of sick leave and compensatory time.

• “Extraordinarily high” medical costs. If the services of the corrections health unit overseen by the county health department were privatized, it would save the county $5 million per year.

• The county juvenile health facility overseen not by Giusto but by the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice, was “extremely expensive,” costing $401 per inmate per day.

• Poor contracting with other jurisdictions that use Multnomah facilities costs the county nearly $11 million a year.

• Poor oversight of inmates.

The report also faulted the jail’s handling of James Chasse Jr. on Sept. 17 following a controversial altercation with two Portland police officers and a county sheriff’s deputy that led to his in-custody death.

According to the report, which did not directly name Chasse, the jail nurse was not informed of the extent of his injuries, the inmate was not taken immediately to the closest hospital when it looked like his injuries might be life threatening, and the jail lacks a protocol requiring arresting officers to specify the extent of any physical force used on an inmate being booked.

Besides a jail oversight committee, the report makes a variety of recommendations, including leasing the vacant Wapato Jail to the Oregon Department of Corrections, which the report said would save the county $7 million annually.


from The Oregonian

Letters to the Editor Training: Help cops deal with mentally ill
In Maxine Bernstein's front-page article, "Potter wants crisis-trained cops" (Oct. 31), Robert King, president of the Portland Police Association, is quoted as saying, "Until our community gets serious about helping the mentally ill, it won't matter how much training we have." He is later described as skeptical regarding a police officer's ability to differentiate between a mentally ill person in crisis and a person intoxicated on drugs or alcohol.

King's statements undermine the value of the specific skills that Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) teaches police officers, to help them interact with people with mental illnesses.

These skills include non-threatening ways to gather key information, types of negotiation and de-escalation, and anticipating how a person with a mental illness who is in crisis may respond to body language. These skills are particularly important because in many instances, people with mental illnesses also have problems with alcohol and drug use, and both problems may be in play in a single interaction.

Independent studies in Memphis and other cities nationwide have shown that CIT officers divert more people with mental illnesses from jails and help them to access mental-health resources.


Psychiatry resident

Southeast Portland

I note the tragic juxtaposition of two recent news stories, about James P. Chasse Jr. and Kam Shing Chan, who has a murder conviction and is now accused of trying to set people on fire in a Salem church. These troubled men might seem unrelated, except for their mental illnesses. Yet their cases are a miserable microcosm of the dilemma police officers face every day.

Our society allows mentally ill people to run loose on the streets when they should be in secure treatment centers. And our collective hypocrisy expects cops to deal with them through some magical combination of psychic divination and the wisdom of Solomon.

Every time a James P. Chasse Jr. dies in a street confrontation, we erupt in an orgy of second-guessing, finger-pointing and condemnation. Meanwhile, most cops grit their teeth and consider us well-meaning fools who don't know what we're talking about.

In the vernacular of the streets, whenever a cop has to confront someone acting "crazy," he is wondering if this one is delusional, but basically harmless; or a homicidal maniac.

Think fast, John Q. Citizen! The wrong answer could get a sharpened screwdriver plunged into your neck because the mentally ill person thinks you're the anti-Christ. Unfortunately, such split-second decisions sometimes have tragic consequences. And it's way too easy to blame the cops.


Northeast Portland

How are officers supposed to treat the mentally ill? ("Police vs. mentally ill: time to change the whole approach," Nov. 1). I believe officers should use force if their lives are in immediate danger.

We grant officers this right because we recognize that their job is dangerous. In James P. Chasse Jr.'s case, he was a mentally ill schizophrenic who endangered nobody's life, and in return lost his own.

I've seen how mentally ill people are treated as criminals, and it's not only tough, but it makes me sick. Mentally ill people need special attention and need to be approached differently. The Portland Police Bureau needs to realize this and train its officers accordingly.



Regarding Mayor Tom Potter's desire for Portland police to receive training in mental illness recognition ("Potter wants crisis-trained cops," Oct. 31), this is beyond the scope of a field officer's duties.

They are not doctors or psychologists. They are there to keep the peace and enforce the laws. Portland Police Association President Robert King is correct in that to expect officers to recognize the difference between a person on drugs or alcohol and a psychotic person is an "unreasonable expectation," and it could cause the death or injury of an officer.


Retired police officer

Los Angeles Police Department


Thursday, November 2, 2006

Chasse case cited in critical jail report


The death of a mentally ill man has raised questions about procedures in Multnomah County’s Correctional system, according to a new District Attorney’s report.

42-year-old James Chasse died in police custody in September. According to officers, Chasse got in a fight with them during an arrest attempt. Officers tackled him, and used a taser to subdue him. He died after broken ribs punctured a lung, according to autopsy results.

Before Chasse died, he was taken to the county’s downtown Portland jail. Jail deputies placed him in an isolation cell.

A jail nurse, Patricia Gayman, decided he should be sent to the hospital, but according to the county audit, she was not aware of the extent of Chasse’s injuries.

"She did not know they had used a taser to some degree," said Deputy District Attorney John Bradley.

Chasse died while officers were transporting him to Portland Adventist Hospital in Southeast Portland on 102nd Avenue.

"That's a long ways, especially for a life threatening injury," said Bradley.

The county report said once the officers realized Chasse might be dying, they should have taken him to Providence Hospital, which is closer to the jail.

The nurse says she would have called for an ambulance if she knew the extent of the fight. Gayman told county investigators Chasse’s death has made her want to be better informed about an inmate’s condition when they are booked.

"Would that have made a difference," said Bradley, "I don't know. But I think it's a real important thing."

Grand jurors cleared the officers involved in Chasse’s death of any wrongdoing. Chasse’s family has said the officers used excessive force.

Jail report excerpts on Chasse death


The following excerpts are from Multnomah County’s report on the jail’s handling of the in-custody death of James Chasse.

“Patricia Gayman was the nurse on duty when Mr. Chasse came in around 6:15 p.m. She had been told he was in the booking area and that he might not be breathing. Ms. Gayman got to the cell and saw Mr. Chasse on the floor. She noted he had a spit sock on his head. She knew that there had been a struggle, but had not been given any of the specifics. She was unaware that one of the officers had attempted to use a taser on him.”

“In hindsight Ms. Gayman said that, had she known the extent of the fight, she would have called an ambulance. In the past she seldom knew what happened on the street. As a result of this incident she wants to be better informed.”

Report Says County Jails Are Mismanaged


A new report from the district attorney's office claims that Multnomah County jails are being grossly mismanaged.

jailAmong other complaints, the report cites the lack of disaster plans at all jails and the James Chasse case, in which the suspect died in police custody. It also questions how two inmates were able to have sexual contact while in isolation.

The report recommended independent oversight for the jail system, leasing the Wapato Jail to the state and making some changes in how county leadership manages the jail system.

The sheriff did not immediately comment.

Click HERE to read the full report.

Report calls jail system broken

from The Oregonian, by Anna Griffin and Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

Multnomah County's jails have devolved into violent and costly near-chaos mostly because the elected officials responsible for overseeing them refuse to do their jobs, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by District Attorney Michael Schrunk's office.

In a 63-page analysis prepared after almost four months of study, prosecutors describe a jail system in which deputies sometimes tape paper over surveillance cameras to hide their absences, where violent crimes among inmates go unprosecuted and often unreported, and a shrinking number of jail beds means nonviolent and violent offenders share space in a population often left to police itself.

Poor management and misleading financial practices, prosecutors say, cost taxpayers money that could be used to open shuttered jail dorms or improve services for the mentally ill. District attorneys, who say they were "conservative" in their findings, contend Sheriff Bernie Giusto has ignored abuse of staff sick time, failed to back commanders in imposing discipline, and overseen huge increases in overtime and comp time.

The lack of leadership, the report says, extends to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, who have disengaged from their role of overseeing the sheriff's office and accepted misleading data without asking tough questions.

". . . Many of the concerns we have mentioned in this report are the byproducts of more significant structural problems," wrote prosecutors John Bradley and Chuck French. "This problem is the lack of communication within leadership of this community, and even the lack of a desire to communicate."

Because of the lack of oversight, the district attorney has recommended forming a permanent work group to oversee the conditions and operation of the jail.

"The purpose of this isn't to beat up on the sheriff or beat up on the men and women of the sheriff's office," Schrunk said Wednesday. "There are some really positive things that can come out of this: The main thing is a good, healthy discussion."

Through a spokesman, Giusto declined to comment. Lt. Jason Gates said the sheriff wanted a chance to read the document and talk with his aides and probably wouldn't respond until Friday.

Prosecutors began work this summer at the request of Commissioner Lisa Naito and in conjunction with the corrections grand jury, which meets annually. Naito asked for the study after a series of security lapses, most recently a case in which a male inmate sneaked into a woman's cell for sex.

The deputy on duty didn't know what had happened until 21/2 hours later, when the inmate buzzed to be returned to his cell. Giusto didn't inform county commissioners until more than two weeks after the fact.

A growing chorus of voices --including earlier corrections grand juries --has called on Giusto to cut rising costs and put the savings into opening closed jail dorms and the $58 million Wapato Jail. As the report notes, many of those calls have gone unheeded. Giusto has said that suggested fixes, such as renegotiating union contracts to reduce personnel costs, are outside his control.

The report represents a more substantive effort to nail down facts and figures to force change. Prosecutors traveled widely to study other jails. They hired an independent financial consultant. And with the corrections grand jury, they questioned more than 100 witnesses.

The district attorney even released findings early to resolve disputes before the final product.

Prosecutors found a system broken on nearly every level, both by policy decisions and tangled communication between the politically frayed county board and Giusto.

Prosecutors focused on three areas: rising and questionable personnel costs, poor oversight from elected leaders and security lapses.


As personnel costs have risen --driven by huge increases in overtime, comp time and what prosecutors call sick-time abuse --keeping an inmate behind bars has become significantly more expensive. Also driving up the cost is closure of the two most cost-efficient jails during Giusto's tenure.

Even as the number of jail beds fell from 2,100 to 1,700, jail spending increased 10 percent.

Multnomah County spends about $157 per inmate a day, compared with $111 in King County, Wash.; $103 in Clark County; and $89 in Washington County. The juvenile detention center, run by the Department of Community Justice, spends $401 a day to house young inmates, far more than other communities spend, according to the report.

One result is that contracts to house inmates from other jurisdictions no longer cover costs. The county loses $12 million annually, according to the report, which recommends terminating or changing those contracts.

These losses are particularly glaring in a county forced to regularly release inmates because of a lack of jail space.

Giusto has previously disputed some of the report's numbers, but prosecutors doubt his figures.

"We found so many discrepancies in their financial procedures we could not rely on their financial conclusions," the report says, adding that Giusto, and Dan Noelle before him, manipulated numbers to push the Board of Commissioners toward particular proposals.


Although Giusto takes the brunt of the criticism, prosecutors also fault county commissioners and even regulators.

The Oregon Department of Corrections, for example, hasn't toured county jails since 2003, according to the report. State law requires the county board to regularly inspect the jails. That has not happened.

Giusto's relationship with commissioners has been prickly. They say he ignores requests for information and their cost-cutting recommendations. He says they don't give him enough money or understand his job. He's called them "my bankers."

Prosecutors say the board must take more responsibility and Giusto must cede some. They recommend an independent work group to regularly inspect the jails and report to the board.

"In many ways, we believe that re-establishing a healthy relationship between the county sheriff and the Board of Commissioners is our most significant proposal," Bradley and French wrote. "Most of the other problems identified in this report stem from a breakdown in that relationship."


Prosecutors say one result of rising costs and little oversight is an increase in violence and security lapses.

They point, for example, to the death in June 2005 of Dennis Saban, a drug addict who was beaten in his cell while a guard was on an unscheduled and unreported break.

Saban's cellmate, charged in his death, was a convicted killer awaiting trial for another slaying and had a history of violence toward other cellmates. Prosecutors found that the deputy did not know the cellmate's history and suggested that he should have been isolated. They say the sheriff's office used single-bunk cells at Inverness Jail for dangerous inmates rather than as a reward for good behavior. They also wondered why the sheriff waited more than a year after Saban's death to start an internal affairs investigation.

Twice in the past two years, prosecutors noted, people brought in on low-level offenses were released before deputies learned they had murder warrants in other states. The sheriff's office releases anyone who cannot be adequately identified in four hours, on a promise to appear in court. One of the men released killed two people before committing suicide, prosecutors said.

Among their suggestions, Bradley and French said Giusto should hold suspects longer than the department's four-hour limit to ensure thorough background checks first. Other suggestions include enabling security cameras to record activity and installing glass doors on private cells.

The district attorney's office also brought up the recent death of James Chasse Jr., a mentally ill man who died in Portland police custody in September after a struggle with officers. Prosecutors say Chasse's case raises a number of questions about the booking process and whether police officers and the clerks, deputies and nurses who greet them exchange enough information.

The jail nurse told investigators she spent "about two minutes" examining Chasse through a cell window and was never told the extent of his struggle with police.

The corrections grand jury is expected to release its report, which will address many of the same issues, later this month.

DA's report slams Multnomah County jail operations - Review cites need for "engaged and informed" county leadership

from the Portland Tribune, by Nick Budnick

Late Wednesday afternoon, Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk released a scathing report finding that the county has “some of the most expensive jails of any urban area in the nation,” citing a variety of mismanagement including “rampant” sick-time abuse at the jail system overseen by elected county Sheriff Bernie Giusto. The report cites lack of oversight both by Giusto, as well as the elected Board County Commissioners.

Asked to comment, Giusto spokesman Lt. Jason Gates said his office had only just seen the report, minutes before it was posted on Schrunk’s website at 4:45 p.m., at

“We just got it,” Gates said. “There is no response because we haven’t had a chance to review it. We’ll review it and probably make a statement later this week.”

Researched in tandem with a grand jury composed of citizens overseen by top aides to Schrunk, the four-month review included interviews with hundreds of people, visits to jail facilities around the Pacific Northwest, as well as to nationally recognized jail facilities in Florida, according to the report. It also entailed hiring a financial consultant to pore through sheriff’s financial records.

The review found that Multnomah County pays $157 per day per inmate, compared with $111 a day in King County, Wash.; $103 a day in Clark County, Wash., and $89 a day in Washington County, Oregon.

According to the review, the reasons for the higher costs in Multnomah County were:

• Although the number of jail beds has been cut by a fifth since 2000, the sheriff’s jail budget has risen by 10 percent after being adjusted for inflation.

• Citing budget pressures, Giusto closed the two least expensive jails in the system in 2005, housing inmates instead at the two remaining facilities. These were more expensive, with up to three times the cost per inmate.

• Overgenerous labor contracts.

• Management practices that have allowed the abuse of sick leave and compensatory time.

• “Extraordinarily high” medical costs. If the services of the corrections health unit overseen by the County Health Department were privatized, it would save the county $5 million per year.

The report, which was 62 pages long and also included 72 pages of appendices, did not stop there. Among its other findings:

• The juvenile health facility overseen not by Giusto but by the county Department of Community Justice, was “extremely expensive,” costing up to $401 a day per inmate.

• Poor contracting with other jurisdictions that use Multnomah facilities costs the county nearly $11 million a year. “In effect, Multnomah County is subsidizing other jurisdictions by housing their prisoners while matrix-releasing its own inmates, who then commit more crimes against the citizens of Multnomah County.”

• Poor oversight of inmates.

The report also faulted the jail’s handling of James Chasse Jr. on Sept. 17, following the controversial altercation with two Portland police officers and a county sheriff’s deputy, leading to Chasse's in-custody death. According to the report, which did not directly name Chasse, the jail nurse was not informed of the extent of his injuries; he was not taken immediately to the closest hospital when it looked like his injuries might be life threatening; and the jail lacks a protocol requiring arresting officers to specify the extent of any physical force used on an inmate being booked.

The report makes a variety of recommendations, including setting up an independent jail oversight commission to assist the board, as well as leasing the vacant Wapato Jail to the state Department of Corrections, which the report said would save the county $7 million annually.

It also recommended "engaged and informed county" leadership at the sheriff’s and county commission level. “County leadership in the board must understand the operations and costs of the sheriff’s office; and it currently does not, to the detriment of county taxpayers.”

Asked for comment, Mike Beard, spokesman for county Chairwoman Diane Linn, said: “She hasn’t seen the report, she hasn’t been briefed on it, and there’s no way she can comment until then.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Why Did James Chasse Jr. Die?

from Willamette Week

This much is known: James P. Chasse Jr. is dead.

Beyond that, there are mostly questions.

Chasse, 42, died Sept. 17 after an encounter with police in the heart of Portland's chichi Pearl District. The schizophrenic man who was known to friends as "Jim Jim" was, according to one officer's testimony, "doing something suspicious or acting just, um, odd."

When Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Burton and Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys approached Chasse, he ran and the officers ran after him. Portland Police Sgt. Kyle Nice was also nearby and responded.

Police estimate that initial contact took place at 5:18 pm. Chasse was pronounced dead by Providence Hospital staff at 7:04 pm. The events of that one hour and 46 minutes (the length of the movie The Usual Suspects) are already the subject of much debate in the city and will almost certainly be the subject of litigation.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer may be right to denounce those who plastered fliers with the officers' pictures and the incitement "Stop me before I kill again!" on telephone poles in Northeast Portland. That will only widen the rift between Portlanders and their police department.

But she was only half right when she urged in The Oregonian last week, "What would be productive at this point is a focus on the larger picture. Although this death is a tremendous tragedy, the real debate should focus on how our society is fulfilling its caretaker role for people who suffer from mental illness."

No one's saying that debate shouldn't happen. And Portland Mayor Tom Potter took an important step when he announced on Monday he wants to spend $500,000 to train patrol officers in crisis management.

But a review by WW of transcripts, reports and data from the police and medical examiner, along with other interviews, make it clear that this case still demands more scrutiny. And answers.

The incident should be probed further until a full picture emerges of the events that led to James Chasse's death.

"To place any of the burden on [Chasse's] shoulders or the mental-health system is a diversion," says Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland. "Police brutality and mental-health reform are separate issues. By tangling them up, you won't solve either one of them."

Let's start with the question of "police brutality."

The official investigation concluded that Chasse died from "broad-based" trauma to his chest, caused solely when Officer Humphreys accidentally fell on top of Chasse. Chasse weighed 145 pounds. Humphreys outweighs him by about 100 pounds.

One month after Chasse died, the Portland Police Bureau said, "Based on all the information available at this time, evidence suggests that the pursuing officer landed on Mr. Chasse as they fell to the ground" and noted that the injuries were "consistent with [a] body landing on Mr. Chasse against [a] hard surface."

The bureau relied on the finding by the state's chief medical examiner, Karen Gunson, that Chasse was killed by "blunt force chest trauma" that was caused "by another person or a fall."

The Multnomah County district attorney's office presented a grand jury with this evidence and testimony from 30 witnesses. On Oct. 17, grand jury members cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing. The officers may still be subject to disciplinary action if a department review finds they violated any Bureau policies.

Some, however, balked at the ruling.

Oregonian columnist Steve Duin wrote in an online column on Oct. 21: "The veteran rugby player at The Oregonian was one of the first to ridicule the laughable assertion ... [Chasse] died because a cop fell on top of him, fracturing 16 of his ribs and breaking a total of 26 different bones in the front and back of his rib cage. If that's the way it worked, he said, a dozen rugby players would die every weekend out at Delta Park."

Portland lawyer Tom Steenson, who represents Chasse's family, hired one of the most experienced and storied pathologists in Oregon, Dr. William J. Brady. Already Brady has raised serious questions about the official explanation of events, based on the information in the medical examiner's report.

He expects to complete his own autopsy of Chasse in the coming weeks. Brady is also asking questions about the lack of injury to Chasse's joints and extremities, which are more fragile than the body's core and normally more susceptible to breaks.

According to Steenson, Brady is also questioning whether the location and severity of the fractures is consistent with someone falling on him. Brady believes they may have instead been caused by police violence.

If the medical nuances are difficult for a layperson to sort through, the inconsistencies in the eyewitness accounts are even more confusing.

Humphreys told investigators he didn't fall on Chasse. "I just went boom, down right on the ground," he said. "I fell on the sidewalk. I went right, right over and past him."

Burton couldn't remember exactly what happened. Nice reported, "It appeared that Officer Humphreys kind of landed slightly off the subject. Kind of half on his right side and half on the ground."

Police have said that even though the officers' accounts don't agree, the sum of the available information, which also includes interviews with witnesses (that have not yet been released to the public), points to Humphreys falling on Chasse.

Critics have pointed to the inconsistency in the cops' testimony as evidence the bureau is just trying to protect itself. But wouldn't it be even more suspicious if their stories matched up on every point?

Daniel Reisberg, chairman of the psychology department at Reed College, studies eyewitness testimony. He says there's no hard-and-fast rule about which witnesses to trust when they give differing accounts of the same event.

"Even if the witnesses are being totally honest and sincere, and as accurate as they can be, it's still possible—maybe even easy—for them to remember things differently," says Reisberg, who could offer no comment on the specifics of the Chasse case.

Memory, he says, is not just a video replay of what happened. It includes what one was paying attention to, a mix of what one sees and what one expects to see, and even information that one takes in after an event.

If Humphreys didn't fall on Chasse, how did he sustain his injuries? The only obvious answer is: from a beating.

There is no dispute that once Chasse was on the ground, police punched and kicked him repeatedly in their struggle to restrain him.

As uncomfortable as it is to talk about, officers do not appear to have encountered the kind, gentle Jim Jim whose persona has emerged from the recollection of family and friends since his death.

By all accounts Chasse was scared and fought back mightily—both before and after police tried to use a Taser on him.

"I've never seen anybody look at me like that with the sheer terror in their eyes," Humphreys recalled.

"He was pretty wild-eyed during the whole thing and, uh, just grittin' his teeth and snapping," Burton says. "He was just sort of blindly fighting as hard as he could."

Chasse's ferocity took the officers by surprise.

"He was twisting and turning so that it looked like he was possibly pulling his, uh, shoulders out of socket," Burton told investigators. "At one point he had his, you know, his legs facing the ground and his chest facing us, and then vice-versa and, and kicking and screaming."

According to their testimony to investigators, the officers struck Chasse as he tried to bite them while they were attempting to place him in restraints.

"As he's squirming around and not putting his hands behind his back and biting and kicking, um, I had, I punched him, I believe, once, maybe, maybe more in the, in the back.... At some point either before or after the Tasing I had used the knuckle of my right index finger and just sort of pressure-pointed his ribs for pain compliance," Burton told investigators.

"I don't see Mr. Chasse's head, but I see Sgt. Nice, uh, strike one time, one time with a closed fist," Humphreys told investigators. "Um, I didn't actually see where it landed, but it was up in the shoulder/head area."

And a little later, Humphreys continued, "I just see teeth as he's coming up. And I mean, his teeth are right on my arm. I pull my fist back and uh, uh, basically just use my forearm and I just draw it back and it strikes him across the face and then I come down with a closed fist strike across Mr. Chasse's face."

Nice told investigators, "I looked down, and he had rolled up on his side again and gotten a hold of the cuff of my right pant leg with his teeth again. I pulled my right foot back and kicked him in the upper chest. I told him, 'Don't [bite] me.'"

Nice also described putting a knee into Chasse's shoulder blade in order to pin him down.

Despite those blows, state medical examiner Gunson told WW the injuries that killed Chasse were not consistent with the individual impacts of punches and kicks.

According to her findings, which the grand jury decision supports, the strikes by officers were incidental to his death and not the main cause.

In the coming months, the Bureau will review whether the officers' blows were an appropriate reaction to Chasse's behavior.

But even if they determine the entire incident followed policy, it doesn't controvert the astonishing fact, first reported by WW, that Humphreys is one of the department's top force users.

Last Tuesday, police released data on its officers' use of force to WW under a public-records request. After analyzing the data, WW on Wednesday broke the news on its website that only one other officer at the Police Bureau has used more force than Humphreys since the department started to track those figures a couple of years ago (see "Chasse Cop's History,", Oct. 25, 2006).

According to the database, which includes more than 8,500 reports from 785 officers, Humphreys is No. 2, with 78 recorded incidents in approximately two and a half years. A further breakdown shows he is also among the top officers for striking suspects and for incidents in which suspects were injured. Of 17 injuries linked to Humphreys, two suspects were taken to a hospital.

Humphreys and 12 other officers make up a vastly disproportionate percentage of force incidents. Out of about 1,000 officers, the 13 are responsible for 10 percent of all use-of-force incidents, WW found. Police say it's unfair not to consider officers' assignments when comparing officers' uses of force.

Humphreys' supervisor says his numbers are higher than other officers' because he frequently arrests suspects in drug stings around the transit lines. After police completed their investigation, Humphreys resumed his duties.

Last Friday, both The Oregonian and the Portland Tribune reported the city had already paid out $90,000 last year to settle an excessive-force claim involving Humphreys. In it, Humphreys was accused of striking a man 30 times with his baton before he discovered the man wasn't the suspect he was after. Under the settlement, Humphreys and the other officers involved admitted no wrongdoing.

According to the Police Bureau's internal-affairs division, Humphreys, a seven-year department veteran, has seven complaints in his file dating back to 1999. He has two from this year, and before that the most recent one dates from 2003. At the same time, Humphreys also has 13 commendations or citizens' letters of appreciation in his file and was the recipient of the department's highest honor, the Medal of Valor, for helping to save four people from an apartment fire.

Even if Chasse's injuries were completely accidental, it doesn't explain why he never received the medical attention that might have saved his life.

According to a police timeline, Sgt. Nice called for a "Code 3 Medical respond for an unconscious male" about five minutes after the initial contact with Chasse. They thought perhaps he had suffered a drug overdose, Burton told investigators.

Medics from American Medical Response, the ambulance company that holds the exclusive county contract for emergency services, arrived in less than three minutes. They were on the scene, along with medically trained Portland firefighters, for the next 16 minutes.

According to a "Fact Sheet" on the incident released by police Oct. 17, AMR medics checked Chasse's vital signs and found them normal—his blood pressure 110/73, a pulse of 100 beats per minute and a respiration rate of 18 to 20 breaths per minute. They also reported Chasse fought them as they tried to render aid.

Chasse family attorney Steenson says Brady believes it unlikely that Chasse's vital signs would have been normal, given the extent of his injuries.

Once medics had examined Chasse, Nice says he "had some conversations with the ambulance staff. I confirmed he was stable. ... They offered, they asked if I wanted him transported [to a hospital]. I said no, we have criminal charges on him."

AMR employees later declined to be interviewed by Portland police detectives about what happened. That's because under federal law they're not allowed to talk about patient information without a subpoena, says Randy Lauer, AMR's regional director of Oregon operations. They did testify, however, before the grand jury.

The protocol for medical response is that if a patient is unconscious, medics have his "implied consent" to take him to the hospital. But if the patient's legal guardian is present, the guardian gets to make the decision. According to the medical examiner's narrative, medics say they left the decision up to the officers.

David Lillegaard, who works near the Chasse scene at Rudy's Barbershop, didn't see the initial fight, but witnessed what happened right afterward from 20 to 30 feet away. He says Chasse appeared to be unconscious for at least part of the time emergency responders evaluated him.

"At one point I thought he was dead," says Lillegaard. "To me, from that situation, there didn't seem to be a reason not to take him to the hospital—just from the blood on the ground and the fact he was passed out."

Lillegaard also says officers nudged Chasse with their feet from time to time as if to check whether he was conscious.

Humphreys rode with Chasse to the Multnomah County Detention Center downtown and told investigators that Chasse did not complain of injuries. He said Chasse did talk, but "a lot of it was that same like a mumble, mumble, a gibberish," Humphreys told investigators. "I get about halfway through his Miranda rights and, uh, he goes, 'What did I do, what did I do?'"

So, either Chasse had massive internal injuries that no one detected at the scene or they occurred later—sometime in the four minutes between the ambulance leaving and the officers leaving to transport Chasse to jail, hogtied in the back of the police car, or in the eight additional minutes it took them to arrive at the jail. (Though no one, so far, is suggesting that happened.)

Once he arrived at the jail, the county medical staff took one look at Chasse though a window in his cell and decided he wasn't in good enough shape for them to admit him. A jail nurse described him as "twitchy," which Steenson believes may be evidence he was having seizures.

County policy says the jail does not accept inmates who are in need of more than minor medical attention.

Humphreys and Burton once again loaded Chasse in the back of a patrol car. On the way to the hospital, it became clear something was seriously wrong with Chasse. Humphreys looked back at their prisoner and saw his arm was stark white.

They pulled over and tried to resuscitate Chasse. Medics arrived within five minutes but could not save him.

While many questions remain, one thing is certain: The death of James Chasse at the hands of Portland police has galvanized the community as few events in the city's recent history have—and many are using it as a touchstone to call for additional police training and mental-health services.

Among several hundred people who turned out for a public memorial last Friday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ was Bill Faricy of Southeast Portland, one of many in the crowd who had never met Chasse.

"It seems like the pattern we're supposed to accept is, about one civilian a year gets killed," he says. "I don't want to see this die down. I don't want to see it be another 'incident.'"

WW intern Alice Joy contributed to this story.
For blunt "impact" strikes (which include hand, foot, baton and flashlight strikes), Humphreys is tied for No. 1 among the 295 officers who reported using such strikes. He reported using strikes 25 times. All but one of those was with his hands or feet. The remaining instance was marked "other."

For physical force used to restrain suspects (such as "take downs," "pressure points" and "control holds," but not including just placing a suspect in handcuffs), Humphreys is tied for No. 2 among the 422 officers who reported using that type of force.

Among officers whose uses of force caused injury to suspects, Humphreys is No. 5 out of 413 officers who reported injuring suspects. Suspects were injured in 17 of his 78 incidents—that's more than one injury for every five uses of force and higher than the overall average.

The Portland Police Bureau's top 33 officers who reported using force since the department started tracking those statistics are responsible for 20 percent of all uses of force. They make up just more than 4 percent of officers who reported using force and an even smaller percentage of the overall department.

Dr. William Brady was fired from his job as the state medical examiner in the mid-'80s for selling tissue samples from bodies to pay for office amenities. He sued, and a jury sided with him, awarding him $300,000.

An extensive archive of local media stories about the Chasse case, as well as primary source documents and photos, can be found at

A personal response to the death of James Chasse Jr.

from Street Roots, by Michael Hopcroft

The Devil take the hindmost. A vital, unspoken creed of American society – that those who achieve great things are the ones who do not notice those who fall behind.

The fact that it is so easy for people of talent to fall out of the race does not seem to matter. We focus our attention as a society on the man who becomes a tycoon, not the millions who don’t, until one of them grabs attention in a way he would rather not have done, often by dying. This is James Chasse’s story, and mine.

Like James, I joined the hindmost, and nobody paid any attention to me.

In 1985, my life was going just swimmingly. I was in the early part of my third year at a private university here in the Northwest. I had been coming off a great academic year and was getting ready for a small but significant role in a Tennessee Williams play. My advisor in the English department believed I was ready to think about graduate school. My theater teacher was convinced that I had what it took to at least make a go of acting as a profession.

Then I was diagnosed with depression, and while my professors treated me no differently, the Dean of Students was clear – I was mentally ill, therefore I could no longer be a student. My mother was even clearer – my life was over as far as she was concerned. The question wasn’t whether I would kill myself, but when.

Ever since that year, I have carried inside myself the knowledge I had lost my future. There are many, many people in my position; people of skill and promise and ambition, who because of illness have been pushed not only to the sidelines but out of the stadium.

In reading the reports of the life James Chasse, I saw a great deal of myself. So it was easy for me to picture myself on Burnside that horrible September evening, not knowing what was happening around me and unable to understand what I had done or what instructions I was supposed to follow.

I feel the contempt of people who see me waiting for an appointment at Cascadia, because I feel it within myself. We believe in merit in this country, we believe success must be rewarded and failure punished. And there are those who would make the case that homelessness and disability are supreme failures, worthy of supreme punishment.

The pain of internalizing that argument has brought me is endless. Nobody has judged me more harshly than I have myself. I have told people that I owe my continued existence only to my lack of courage.

Yet when I see what is out there in the community, I see there is courage in simply finding a way to live each day in a world where you are not viewed as a person, where you are not seen as having interests. There is courage in simply surviving your difficulties, even if you can’t solve them right away, which most people don’t see.

Many people in the aftermath of the death of James Chasse are saying it should not have happened, and are looking to assign blame. I can accept the first part; Chasse endured a beastly, agonizing and humiliating death that even the worst of criminals would not be ordered to endure. It should not have happened.

This city is in the midst of the complex process of assigning blame for James Chasse’s death. Will blame alter other people’s actions or perceptions? Will punishing one person change the attitudes of others? No event is so simple it can be explained in black-and-white terms.

And good solutions have been scarce. Businesses have closed their restrooms to the public because of vandals, and basic sanitation is denied in most of the downtown area. Shelters have closed in the name of ending homelessness because statistically they are shown not to be helpful, while this leaves people outdoors as a cold winter approaches. And as far as the treatment of mental illness goes, there is no agreement on what appropriate treatment is, and treatments that are appropriate and helpful in many cases are useless in others.

I will be the first to admit that I do not have the answer. I’m not even sure what the question is. All I can say is this: what happened to James Chasse could have happened to me just as easily, or to any number of the people I see every day. We are the hindmost. Does this society really want the Devil to take us?


from The Oregonian

Bureau tolerates violence

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer is correct: We must improve services for the mentally ill ("A time to focus on the broader issues," Oct. 25). Her help will surely be welcome.

But James P. Chasse Jr. did not die for lack of a crisis triage center. He died at the hands of police, at least one of whom has a sufficiently disturbing record of excessive force that he should not be in contact with the public.

Sizer has the authority to make desperately needed changes. A culture of violence is tolerated in the police bureau. How else to explain three officers chasing a man who may or may not have urinated in public, then beating him to death once they had him "down"?

Improved or expanded training will not suffice. The psychological profile used to determine who is fit to wear a badge must be revised.


Northeast Portland

Gordly tells panel action needed, not studies

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

About 20 public safety and mental health leaders, advocates, and elected officials Tuesday pledged to enhance the professionalism of Portland police and sheriff's deputies, while lobbying to expand services for people suffering from mental illness.

"You know that we don't need any more studies," state Sen. Avel Gordly, D-Portland, told the group at City Hall. "We need to act on what we already know . . . This is about putting together our collective will."

Gordly and Mayor Tom Potter chaired the first Mental Health/Public Safety panel, which the mayor created following the death of James P. Chasse Jr. in police custody Sept. 17. Chasse, 42, suffered from schizophrenia and died of broad-based blunt-force trauma to his chest after police struggled to take him into custody. The panel expects to meet every two weeks until February.

Potter urged members to examine what conditions allowed Chasse's death to occur, how it could have been prevented, and what needs to be changed.

"We are not here to assign blame or to point fingers, but rather to find solutions to a very grave problem," Potter said. "It is unacceptable that anyone should die because of the lack of training, lack of coordination, funding, or appropriate response."

Besides pushing for expanded crisis intervention training for street officers and sheriff's deputies, the group plans to sift through existing reports on how to improve the mental health system, prioritize the recommendations and figure out to make them happen.

Doris Cameron-Minard, a past president of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Oregon, whose son suffers from mental illness, said she has served on two governors' mental health task forces. She said she's been frustrated that many of the ideas that came out of those reports are still gathering dust. Steps that need to be taken, she said, include expanding access for the mentally ill to community treatment, and providing diversion treatment programs so people suffering from mental illness don't end up in jail. In Clackamas County, for example, she said the mental health court has been successful.

Beckie Child, president of the Mental Health Association of Oregon, told the panel that she'd like to see more mental health consumers at the table to provide their accounts of their encounters with law enforcement. She gave the mayor a petition she circulated, seeking his commitment to expanded Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement, a step Potter announced Monday he is taking.

"Law officers play a vital role in our lives --regardless of the condition of the mental health system or our own disability," the petition says. "Many people with psychiatric disabilities have had fearful, dangerous or humiliating experiences with law officers."

Child, who has suffered from mental illness since a child and has been homeless three times, said she had her own disturbing encounter with police when she was unable to check out of a hotel and officers were called. During her mental health crisis, she said, she kept hearing officers saying in the next room "how whacked-out" she was.

Potter said he'd sponsor a session so mental health consumers could meet directly with officers and share their views. "Everyone agrees, the time for rhetoric is over," Potter said. "The time for results is now."

EDITORIAL: Police vs. mentally ill: time to change the whole approach

from The Oregonian

Ten years from now, Portlanders may look back on Sept. 17, 2006, as a turning point. The death of James Philip Chasse Jr. has forced a painful recognition: Even here, in a progressive city with a highly trained police force, police treatment of the mentally ill remains, essentially, a matter of dumb luck.

How a suspect is treated depends on who shows up. If you're lucky, the officers recognize the symptoms of mental illness, approach calmly, empathize and defuse tense situations. If you're unlucky, as Chasse and his family were, the officers don't know what to do. They only know how to confront, chase, knock you down and use command-and-control techniques to capture you.

Chasse, a schizophrenic, had no weapon and posed no threat. Yet officers treated him like a criminal, using overwhelming force and, in the process, crushing his chest, breaking his ribs and puncturing a lung. Although he moaned and groaned, officers, jail and medical personnel somehow failed to give Chasse the proper care, or even to notice that he needed care until it was too late. He died en route to a hospital.

Chasse's death must be viewed through two lenses. It's imperative to zoom in and gauge the correctness of the actions of the specific officers involved. It's also important to step back and use a wider angle to figure out what the bureau as a whole needs to do differently.

That's what Mayor Tom Potter and Police Chief Rosie Sizer did on Monday, in effect, when they announced their support for universal crisis-intervention training for patrol officers, a breathtakingly ambitious goal. It exceeds even the standard set in Memphis, Tenn., which pioneered the use of such training.

For a dozen years, the Portland Police Bureau has offered this intensive training, too, on a volunteer basis. But Potter and Sizer want to out-Memphis Memphis. They want to turn the bureau into the most advanced and innovative police agency in the nation, steeping both new and veteran patrol officers in the best techniques for working with the mentally ill.

Such training expands officers' repertoire of skills and makes them far more adept, not only at dealing with people in crisis, but also with the general public. At a price tag of about $500,000 over two years, providing this training could cost less than one out-of-court settlement for excessive use of force.

Yet it isn't a panacea, of course. Police would still have to defend themselves and the community against armed, suicidal individuals. But mounting evidence suggests that having officers trained and available around the clock to deal with the mentally ill is smarter for a city and safer for police. This training helps officers quell potential violence, pacify people in crises and avoid injuries.

Two demands arise from Chasse's death, for specific justice and for an institutional transformation. A specific day of reckoning is coming with regard to the officers involved, but if change only begins and ends with them, little will have been accomplished.

Beyond that, though, how Chasse was treated on Sept. 17, 2006, shouldn't have been a matter of luck. A city that prides itself on practicing community policing should approach the mentally ill gingerly and with good will. That means approaching them with the highest level of skill --as sons and daughters and members, no less than anyone else, of our community.

Putting $581,550 Where Your Mouth Is

Enough Platitudes: Potter Needs to Get Out the Checkbook and Fund Better Cop Training

Instead of apologizing and forming another hand-wringing commission in the wake of James Chasse Jr.'s death on September 17, Mayor Tom Potter could take the lead in making Portland safer for folks like Chasse, who suffered from schizophrenia—by writing the cops a check made out to the training department.

When the Mercury asked the mayor last Tuesday, October 17—following the Multnomah County Grand Jury's decision not to indict the police officers involved in Chasse's violent death—whether families of those with mental health problems can still feel safe calling 911 in a crisis, he responded by musing, "I wish there was another number they could call."

There isn't another number. But as Potter himself pointed out, cuts in funding services for those suffering from mental illness mean police officers are increasingly being asked to meet their needs on the streets.

Despite this, only 155 of the 450 Portland patrol officers have gone through the bureau's 40-hour crisis intervention training (CIT) course, which addresses de-escalation in encounters with people suffering from mental illness, like Chasse.

Judging from the account of Officer Christopher Humphreys—who police investigators say accidentally fell on Chasse, directly causing his death—Chasse was certainly in crisis when the two met that Sunday evening on NW Everett near 13th.

"He sees me and we make this direct eye contact..." Officer Humphreys told investigating detectives. "I mean the only way I can describe it is just absolute sheer terror. On his face, his eyes go wide and... instantly when he sees me, it's just sheer terror."

An hour and 45 minutes later, Chasse was dead.

Officer Humphreys and his two partners had not been through CIT. It's speculation, of course—but could better training have prevented Chasse's death? Those close to the case believe it could have.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer told the Mercury last week she hopes her department will "do better serving those [in crisis like Chasse] in the future," but has only committed to training all new Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers in crisis intervention—not the untrained officers currently on her roster. Sizer would need more money to train those already on patrol.

"If the money were on the table to train all our officers in crisis intervention, we would take it," she told the Mercury this week.

That's where the mayor comes in: Mental health advocates argue that Potter's promise to have the newly formed Human Rights Commission look into incidents like Chasse's death should be complemented by finding the cash to support better police training.

Though Portland Police Association President Robert King said last week that any mention of the need for more training "looks like an implicit apology on behalf of the police bureau," it's still unlikely the union would turn down funding—additional training also means cops would be safer doing their jobs. King did not return the Mercury's calls.

"Some guys have big misconceptions about mental illness," says Officer Paul Ware, PPB's CIT coordinator. "But once they've met a schizophrenic for an hour, things change."

CIT includes training from 16 volunteer instructors in how to recognize and respond to schizophrenia and other mental health problems, like acute depression and suicidal intent. Officers also get the chance to tour mental health facilities and meet folks with mental health problems, to hear about their experiences firsthand.

"Imagine you're a schizophrenic and you're hearing voices," says Mark Schorr, director of staff development at Cascadia Behavioral Health. "They're like real voices on a tangled telephone line, except they're saying, 'You're scum' and 'They're trying to kill you.' Meanwhile the officer is saying, 'Put your hands in the air.'"

Schorr, who helped deliver the PPB's first CIT training sessions in the late '90s, says the training is not a "silver bullet" for all problems, but it's beneficial for both the cops and the community they serve—and would be well worth the money spent.

"I'm aware how much it costs to train people," he says. "But good training is the most proactive way to avoid trouble. It also lowers police anxiety because they'll feel more comfortable handling someone who may be acting strangely."

According to the Mercury's calculations, it would cost $581,550 to put Portland's 295 remaining patrol officers through the CIT course—a paltry figure compared to the $1.3 million lawsuit currently threatened against the city by former Police Chief Derrick Foxworth, or the $4.2 million in budget surplus funds Potter has said he'd like to spend upgrading the police record keeping system (not to mention Potter's estimated $800,000 combined salary and police pension over the course of his four-year term).

Here's how the cost breaks down: Other officers would have to cover their colleagues' shifts during the 40 hours of training, at an approximate overtime cost of $47.25 per hour for 295 officers, for a total of $557,550.

Eight additional CIT sessions over the next year—in addition to the two already planned—would be sufficient to train all the remaining patrol officers in the city.

While CIT trainers currently volunteer their time, if the trainers were paid for the additional sessions, it would cost $24,000—that's a rate of $75 per hour per trainer, considered a fair rate for a Masters graduate in clinical psychology qualified to deliver the training, according to Schorr at Cascadia. Grand total: $581,550. (Officer Ware, the CIT coordinator, concurs with the Mercury's calculations, but adds that unforeseen costs could bump the total closer to $1 million.)

The additional training is a great idea, according to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk, whose office organized and prosecuted the Grand Jury trial of the officers involved in Chasse's death. He says the city needs to look not only at the cost of training all its officers, but also at the cost to the community of not doing so.

"I don't write the checks for the city," he says. "But while there's a fiscal cost to doing this training, if we can avoid these incidents, the credibility of the police and the confidence of the community in law enforcement would be greatly enhanced."

The city has paid for Officer Humphreys' reportedly violent behavior before: In March 2006, it paid $33,000 to a 19-year-old man, according to his attorney, Travis Eiva, who represented the case with his partner, Benjamin Haile. Officer Humphreys, alongside three other officers, allegedly struck the man across the shins and mid-section 30 times during a violent confrontation.

"I wonder how much the city coffers will have to bleed, not to mention mentally ill people brutalized," Eiva wrote on the blog last weekend, "to make up for this lapse of judgment on the part of police officer training."

There is no doubting the effectiveness of CIT training—it's based on the "Memphis Model," instituted in Memphis in 1988 after a controversial shooting. There, Major Sam Cochran, who has spearheaded the training's implementation, says the impact has been "almost immeasurable in terms of community praise and goodwill toward the police department."

"How do you measure its success, knowing family members [of people with mental illnesses] will call us, knowing CIT will be part of our response—where previously they hesitated to call the police in a crisis?" he asks. "That was not a good commentary on our officers."

Cochran says it might not even be necessary to train all of Portland's patrol officers in the full CIT course. He suggests all Portland's patrol officers be given 16 to 18 hours of in-service training that covers the fundamentals of mental illness—as Memphis' officers have—if the 40-hour course is too big a stretch.

"It takes a certain caliber of officer to respond well to CIT," he says. "There needs to be judgment, maturity, passion, and commitment. Just as SWAT teams require a certain type of person, so does CIT's specialized approach."

So will Potter put his money where his mouth is, and take officers' training seriously? "We would not be opposed to doing this if $581,550 is the figure involved," says John Doussard at the mayor's office. But will Potter advocate for more training? Portland's safety is in his hands.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mental Health & Public Safety Panel holds first meeting

Mayor Tom Potter’s Mental Health & Public Safety Implementation Panel held its first meeting Tuesday (10/31) to begin changing how the local and regional public safety and mental health systems work together.

The panel, formed by Mayor Potter in the wake of the death of James Chasse, is being co-sponsored by Senators Avel Gordly and Ben Westlund and County Chair-elect Ted Wheeler. It is charged with taking recommendations that will be made by a small, focused work group and forging the policy and budget changes necessary to implement them.

“It is unacceptable that anyone should die because of the lack of training, lack of coordination, funding, or appropriate response,” the Mayor told the group. “We don’t intend to reinvent the wheel, but to look at (previous recommendations) and to use them as a starting point to move forward.”

The meeting comes one day after Mayor Potter announced that he is asking the City Council to spend $500,000 over the next two years to give Portland police officers 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) that will help them more effectively deal with people suffering from a mental illness. Patrol officers will be the first to receive the training if approved.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito announced the County is also also in the process of making CIT training mandatory for all deputy sheriffs.

The Implementation Panel members make up a broad coalition of local, regional and state officials, including:

* Iris Bell, Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn’s Office
* Karl Brimner, Multnomah County Mental Health & Addiction Services
* Doris Cameron-Minard, Mental Health Advocate
* Beckie Child, Mental Health Association of Oregon
* Bernie Giusto, Multnomah County Sheriff
* Avel Gordly, Oregon State Senator
* Maureen Hovenkotter, Office of Sen. Gordon Smith
* Lisa Naito, Multnomah County Commissioner
* Austin Raglione, Mayor’s Office
* Maria Rubio, Mayor’s Office
* Lillian Shirley, Multnomah County Health Department
* Rosie Sizer, Portland Police Bureau
* Ben Westlund, Oregon State Senator
* Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair-Elect

Several members of the panel, including Senators Gordly and Westlund, made impassioned pleas for the group to identify priorities quickly and move aggressively to take advantage of the upcoming Legislative session. The Mayor set a timetable of 60-90 days for the panel to make its final, short-term recommendations.

Use of Force Map of Portland

from the Portland Tribune

Use of Force Report - Dennis Lamar Young

Page TWO of TWO PDF of Portland Police Department Use of Force Report on Dennis Lamar Young.

Use of Force Report - Dennis Lamar Young

Page ONE of TWO PDF of Portland Police Department Use of Force Report on Dennis Lamar Young.

When cops use force

from the Portland Tribune

BACK STORY: Tribune's analysis of Portland police records show cops use force an average of every 2.2 hours

In the wake of James Jahar Perez’s fatal shooting by police officers after a traffic stop, hundreds of protesters gather in April 2004 to rally downtown. A few months later a new rule went into effect requiring officers to file a report every time they used force. Now the pressure’s on to look at the data.

Whether a punch, a shock from a Taser, a gun drawn and pointed at a suspect or pressing on the body’s pressure points, a Portland police officer uses force every 2.2 hours on average, according to a Portland Tribune analysis of two years of Portland Police Bureau records.

Following the incident last month in which James Chasse Jr. was crushed to death during an encounter with police in the Pearl District, the issue of how Portland police use force has come to the fore of public awareness.

Mayor Tom Potter announced two weeks ago that city Auditor Gary Blackmer had requested all of the police bureau’s use-of-force records, which have been collected since July 2004, after community representatives and experts recommended it in the aftermath of a controversial 2003 police shooting.

Potter said Blackmer would hire an independent analyst to study the data and report back.

“This is the kind of data all of Portland has been waiting for,” said Alejandro Queral, director of the nonprofit Northwest Constitutional Rights Center. “They do background checks on you if you want to be part of the police force, so we should be able as a community to go into those files and do our own background checks on officers and on the bureau as a whole.”

The Portland Tribune requested the data more than two months ago under Oregon public-records law. The police bureau provided it last week – 8,571 reports that cover roughly 27 months through Oct. 4.

The data show that a small percentage of Portland’s 1,000 officers are most often responsible for filing the reports, with 5 percent of cops accounting for 34 percent of the total uses of force.

Expand the number to the top 10 percent of officers who used force, and they represent 47.8 percent of the total uses of force.

Officers who most frequently pull out their guns are least likely to fire them, the data show.

At least 47 people had the same officer use force against them on two different dates, according to the Tribune’s analysis, and 13.7 percent of suspects in the reports had force used against them on multiple occasions, the most being 13 different times.

Suspects who had force used on them also were 10 times more likely to have to be taken to the hospital following one of these encounters than were cops, the data show.

And only one officer, Peter Taylor, assigned to East Precinct’s afternoon shift, has the distinction of appearing near the top in four categories. He is in the top 10 for overall uses of force, for sending suspects to the hospital, for deploying his Taser – he has used a Taser 10 times – and also for pointing a gun at someone more than 20 times in the past two years.

“I don’t think any of these numbers mean anything,” Portland Police Association President Robert King said. “Even gathering the data in the first place was a mistake because this is just going to be used as a tool to criticize us, and it’s criticism that we don’t need and don’t deserve.”

The Tribune tried reaching officers who appear prominently in the data, sending e-mails to the officers and making interview requests through the bureu’s public-information officer. None could be reached for comment before press time.

Police bureau officials urge people who see the data to consider the assignments of the cops involved in the incidents and the likelihood that the great majority of uses of force are justified and minor.

“It’s also really important, I think, to see whether the reports are generated out of self-initiated work as opposed to calls for service,” Police Chief Rosie Sizer said. “A lot of our people who are near the top of some of these lists are involved in high-risk and very choreographed work. I really hope that people remember and realize that in most cases uses of force are within our policy and consistent with our training.”

Blanks don’t help

Some data are poorly kept or incomplete, making analysis more difficult. For example, former Central Precinct Sgt. David Hendrie, recently assigned to the Detective Division, supervised cops involved in 165 use-of-force reports – the highest number among Portland Police Bureau supervisors named in the data.

For much of the past year, he managed cops assigned to downtown livability issues in the small Street Crime Unit that was designed to have many contacts with people Potter deemed unsavory and pledged publicly to remove.

At Central, Hendrie for a while had a handwritten note taped next to his computer that jokingly referring to his unit as the Police Officer Tactical Transient Eradication Responders, or POTTER.

Yet at the same time, it is impossible to know if Hendrie, in fact, was the top supervisor in that category, because officers filing use-of-force reports neglected to identify a supervisor more than half the time, leaving the field blank in their reports 4,508 times.

Still, by the available data, Central Precinct – which covers 30.8 square miles west of the Willamette River – is overrepresented in the top users of force. Four of the top 12 officers for filing such reports work at Central – including No. 1, officer Brian Hubbard, with 117.

Five of the top 11 supervisors also work at Central, including Sgt. Kyle Nice, who was involved in the incident that caused Chasse’s death, and who is ranked eighth in that incomplete set of data, with 85 reports filed by subordinates.

Also, of the 14 officers who sent the most suspects to the hospital, half work at Central. Among them is the officer who occupies the top spot in the category – Darrell Shaw – who has filed reports showing he was responsible for sending eight people off in ambulances since fall 2004.

The data also are not grouped by precinct or unit and are only roughly searchable by geography. The data were compiled and released by the police bureau, making independent verification difficult.

In addition, the police bureau does not track the outcome of criminal charges filed against the suspect.

“If they did, they might feel more pressure to win all those cases,” said Craig Colby, a Portland lawyer who has been critical of the official version of a January incident in which a Portland police lieutenant shot and killed a suspect in a stolen car. “I hate to give them an incentive to manufacture evidence, but that’s something somebody should look at so the public can know.”
Stats stayed in the crates

The police bureau began collecting use-of-force data in 2004, following community and expert recommendations that it do so in the aftermath of the police shooting of Kendra James, an unarmed motorist, in Northeast Portland the year before. The data has only begun to be analyzed by the police bureau.

The forms cops fill out define more than a dozen different types of force, ranging from handcuffing to physical takedowns to the use of batons, Tasers and firearms.

Until May, none of the reports had been entered into computers but sat in plastic crates in the police bureau’s Records Division on the 11th floor of the Justice Center downtown.

“To me, the fact that they have this information and are not analyzing or using the data at all creates situations where the public is bound to think they’re hiding something,” Queral said. “I mean, to have it and not look at it seems to the public like the police don’t want to know what they have.”

Southeast Precinct Cmdr. Derrick Foxworth, who as police chief mandated the filing of the reports, said they were designed to have many uses.

“One of our initial goals was to identify trends in the information, maybe use that to modify our policies, modify our training,” he said.

“Originally we weren’t looking at including it in the Early Intervention System for officers who might have some problems, but we added that to the list pretty quickly,” he said.

He said early plans included comparing similar areas, times of day and types of assignments to see who stood out and whether they were acting appropriately.

But the Records Division had not yet written the codes to input the data from the reports, and the order to have officers file the reports was briefly delayed.

“Ultimately, my feeling was that it was important to start filling these out and collecting them right away, regardless of whether we could put them in a computer right away,” Foxworth said. “This wasn’t something I felt we could put off any longer.”

Foxworth’s son, Northeast Precinct night-shift officer Derrick Foxworth Jr., has a notable presence in the reports. He is tied for 10th in overall uses of force with 55. And he ranks second for pointing his gun at people – 36 times in two years – behind a Portland police detective assigned to capturing high-risk fugitives alongside the U.S. Marshals Service.

That detective, Dirk Anderson, is evidence that a high ranking in a use-of-force category doesn’t mesn the cop believes in inappropriate force. Anderson was the anonymous whistle-blower after two off-duty Portland cops beat a man in January 2002. The city settled with the man for $75,000 the next year, and the cops were indicted, pleaded guilty and served jail time.

Sizer explained further, saying assignments like that given the younger Foxworth involve a large number of felony traffic stops.

“And though there is no written policy, it is part of our training to approach a vehicle in that situation with our guns already out and trained on the vehicle,” she said.

Group’s meant to go at it

Leslie Stevens, director of the city’s Independent Police Review Division, said Sizer was helping her staff a task force to study the data, offering her Portland police training officers and an assistant chief.

Other task force members would include Stevens and one of her staffers, former Benton County District Attorney Pete Sandrock, along with two citizens taken from her division’s Citizen Review Committee.

“I want to keep this task force manageable – I don’t want it to die under its own weight,” Stevens said.

She said she wants to look for patterns – types of force used, police units that use more force than others, injuries to police and civilians. She said she also is interested in whether uses of force follow certain supervisors or field training officers around from assignment to assignment.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Stevens said. “None of us have seen any of this data yet, but I’m excited to do the work.”

Queral said he was deeply interested in the results.

“We have waited a long time for what to me is as simple as keeping a promise,” he said.

King, the police union president, said it was failed leadership that kept the bureau from analyzing the data earlier.

“It should have been a priority for the top managers at the police bureau to get this done,” he said. “They know it best, they know how to use it, and we would have been happy to help with that effort. But now the only thing we can do is keep our heads down and ignore this so we can get back to work.”

Controversial deaths involving Portland cops

from the Portland Tribune

• April 1, 2001 — Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot, a 29-year-old Mexican immigrant, is shot and killed by Portland police after he escapes from a psychiatric hospital holding room and advances on officers with a metal rod.

• May 5, 2003 — Kendra S. James, 21, is shot by Portland police after she attempts to drive away from a traffic stop in North Portland. She was unarmed.

• March 28, 2004 — James Jahar Perez, 28, is shot by a Portland police officer as the officer’s partner struggles to pull him from a car and Perez ignores police officers’ commands to show them his hands. Perez was unarmed.

• Jan. 4, 2006 — A Portland police officer fires two shots at moving car, later determined to be stolen. Driver Dennis Lamar Young is killed.

• March 20 — Timothy Grant, of Medford, dies after police administer two Taser shocks to him. State medical examiner later rules Grant died of cocaine overdose and Taser shocks did not contribute to his death.

• Sept. 17 — James P. Chasse Jr. dies, in police custody, from multiple rib fractures and a punctured lung, after police chase him and he falls to a sidewalk, with a police officer possibly landing on top of him. Witnesses said they also saw police punch and kick Chasse.

Mayor looks to increase PPB mental health training


Portland Mayor Tom Potter says he is seeking $500,000 to help fund additional mental health awareness training for Portland police officers.

Additionally, the mayor's Mental Health panel will meet for the first time Tuesday in the hopes of finding ways for the police and mental health agencies to work more closely together to protect those with mental health disabilities.

The request comes after a Portland man with mental disabilities died while in police custody.

James Chasse, a diagnosed schizophrenic, died in September while in police custody after an incident involving several officers. His death sparked a grand jury investigation in the conduct of the officers involved.

The grand jury cleared the officers involved. A medical examiner ruled Chasse's death as accidental.

However, none of the officers had any advanced training in dealing with people with mental health problems, and Mayor Potter says he is seeking the funds in hopes of getting all Portland police officers additional training on the subject.

Potter is seeking $250,000 for training for this year, and another $250,000 for the upcoming year.

Portland City Council to vote on crisis training for cops


The Portland City Council is set to vote in late November on additional crisis training for police officers.

Mayor Tom Potter wants all Portland police patrol officers to undergo the crisis intervention training, to prepare them for potential confrontations with the mentally ill.

During their Tuesday meeting, Potter asked the city council to allocate $250,000 for the specialized crisis intervention training.

Mental health advocates have called for increased CIT for all officers in the wake of James Chasse’s death. Chasse, who was mentally ill, died in police custody last month.

"Increasingly, our public safety officers are the first responders for people on the street with mental health issues," Potter said. "Any additional training we can provide them is worth the investment for our community."

The money would come from a pool of more than $18 million in unanticipated revenue which is the result of Portland's improving economy, according to the mayor’s office.

The council is set to vote on the issue on November 29.

Chasse task force meets

from the Portland Tribune

Portland Mayor Tom Potter will ask the City Council for $250,000 in one-time funds from this year’s budget surplus to immediately start Crisis Intervention Training for all Portland police patrol officers.

Although the council will not vote on one-time requests until Nov. 28, Potter hopes the training can begin immediately.

The request is in response to the in-custody death of James Chasse Jr. on Sept. 17. Chasse parents said their son was mentally ill.

After Chasse’s death, Potter appointed a Mental Health/Public Safety Task Force to study how the mentally ill are cared for in Portland and their interactions with the police. Its first meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. today in the Rose Room at Portland City Hall.

Potter wants $500,000 to train police to deal with mentally ill

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

Mayor Tom Potter announced Monday he wants to set aside $500,000 over the next two years to help Portland police run all patrol officers through 40 hours of specialized training on how to deal with people suffering from a mental illness.

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer says she's committed to accomplishing that goal and becoming the first major metropolitan police agency to do so, but said it'll take "tremendous effort."

Sizer wants all new recruits next year to complete Crisis Intervention Training before they're assigned to patrol. Further, she intends to start one CIT class a month beginning in January for 30 street officers and continue that for as long as two years.

"I think that is doable and sustainable," Sizer said Monday. "I feel like our community is demanding a higher level of competency on mental health issues, and their demand should matter to us."

Last month's death of James P. Chasse Jr. in police custody has drawn renewed attention to police training. Chasse, 42, suffered from schizophrenia, but the three officers involved in Chasse's case did not suspect he had a mental illness when they approached him. They thought he was either on drugs or drunk. The three officers were not certified in crisis intervention.

Nationally, law enforcement is altering tactics because police frequently are the first contact with people who suffer mental illness.

"Any additional training we can provide them is worth the investment for our community," Potter said.

Mental health advocates praise the specialized training, which focuses on avoiding crises through communication. They say the traditional police tactics of establishing immediate command and control can feed the paranoid delusions of an unstable person and spur a violent confrontation.

Robert King, president of the Portland Police Association, said Monday that while the union supports any increased training, "it would of course not changed the encounter with Mr. Chasse. Until our community gets serious about helping the mentally ill, it won't matter how much training we have."

Portland's 40 hours of crisis training for officers has been voluntary since the program began in 1994 under former Chief Charles Moose. Portland police and mental health advocates, including psychologists and psychiatrists, provide the instruction, which includes classroom and realistic scenario-training. The officers are taught how to approach and talk to someone in crisis to defuse a situation before it escalates into violence, said Officer Paul Ware, the bureau's CIT coordinator.

One out of every seven of Portland's 699 patrol officers are now CIT-certified. There are 155 Portland CIT-certified officers; of those, 103 officers are on the street assigned to the bureau's five precincts.

Beckie Child of the Mental Health Association of Oregon said delegates to a mental health conference held in Portland last week signed a petition pressing the mayor to commit to training all cops in crisis intervention, and to do so within six months.

Potter is seeking $250,000 this year from unanticipated city revenue to help certify 150 to 180 patrol officers in crisis intervention training through June. He wants to set aside another $250,000 in next year's budget for continued CIT classes and eventually have all sworn officers certified.

Yet the Memphis, Tenn., officer who first developed the training cautioned that extending it to every officer is not the best idea. He favors maintaining a specialized unit of trained officers available on every shift.

"Just like there's some officers who are not suited to be on a SWAT team, truth of the matter is there's some officers who are not suited to be CIT officers," said Maj. Sam Cochran of the Memphis Police Department. "It takes a special talent, special skill to deal with a population that is in the midst of a mental health crisis."

Sizer said that's been debated within the bureau since the CIT program began. "I don't think every officer will absorb the lessons at the same rate," she said, "but at the very least it will provide officers greater sensitivity around mental health issues."

Portland officers certified in crisis intervention training were available to respond to only one-third of the calls involving the mentally ill, in each of the past three years, bureau statistics show. In 2005, for example, there were 2,078 calls dealing with someone with mental health problems. A CIT officer was on the scene for 31 percent, or 634 of those calls.

The number of calls involving people suffering from mental illness is growing. In 2005, there were 2,078, up from 1,999 in 2004 and 1,907 in 2003.

The Police Assessment Resource Center, an outside consultant that reviewed Portland officer-involved shootings and deaths in custody, said the bureau's CIT-response rate suggests the bureau "does not provide as comprehensive a CIT service as it might." At the very least, the bureau should ensure it trains enough CIT officers so an adequate number are available on every shift, the center recommended in 2005.

"Certainly, if we had more people who are CIT-certified," Sizer said, "we'd have a higher ability to get officers out to those calls more frequently."

Cost savings possible

Training all patrol officers is costly and logistically difficult, police say, because it requires paying overtime to cover the costs of filling shifts while officers are pulled off the street for the training, as well as paying instructors' salaries.

But the Los Angeles-based police consultant predicted a cost savings: Having all officers CIT-trained should reduce police-involved shootings and deaths-in-custody and save the city money by not having to deal with the consequences of such cases.

In the Portland training, officers are provided an overview of the county's mental health system, a description of mental illnesses and the symptoms officers are most likely to see on duty. A key component is a full day of scenario-training, where mental health experts portray mentally ill people and officers must figure out the best way to deal with them. Their actions are evaluated by mental health experts. Another day is spent visiting residential programs and outpatient centers and meeting clients.

Portland police also have a community partner, Project Respond, which provides mental health specialists who can be called to assist officers on the street. They are requested 40 to 50 times a month by Portland officers, Ware estimated. When they respond, officers remain on scene but let the specialists handle the call.

Training higher than most

The Portland police training, as is stands, is more than most other officers in the state get.

The state agency that runs the basic police academy in Oregon now offers only three hours of classroom training on dealing with the mentally ill, as part of its 10-week academy for police recruits.

"What we currently provide would nowhere near . . . prepare an officer to appropriately or adequately deal with the wide range of folks experiencing mental health issues," said Cameron Campbell, director of training for the Oregon Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training.

In January, the state's basic police academy will be extended from 10 to 16 weeks, and the training on dealing with the mentally ill will increase as well. Instead of three hours of classroom instruction, there will be 12 hours of classroom instruction. New will be eight to 10 hours of scenario-based training, with instructors portraying people suffering from delusions, schizophrenia or personality disorders.

Expectations debated

Shortly after Chasse's death, King called it an "unreasonable expectation" for police to be able to determine on the street whether someone is mentally ill, drunk or on drugs. Yet, the state's police training academy says that's part of the enhanced curriculum --asking an officer to "differentiate if someone is on drugs/alcohol or suffering a mental illness," by asking a person if they're involved in mental health services, or taking any medication, provided a person is cooperative.

Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland, called King's comments unnerving. "I think that's ridiculous. That's not an unrealistic expectation. That's what his job is," Renaud said. "Their failure undermines public trust."

Ware said that sometimes officers only get a quick snapshot of somebody on the street. While it may be impossible to make a diagnosis in five to 10 seconds, Ware said, "CIT can help you make a better educated guess."