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What Happened to James Chasse: Police will overhaul use-of-force guidelines

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Police will overhaul use-of-force guidelines

from The Oregonian

Report - A task force prompted by James Chasse Jr.'s death recommends that Portland tighten its policy

Portland police used force slightly more frequently than officers in a handful of comparable cities, yet the Police Bureau did not uphold a single citizen complaint between 2004 and 2006, a task force reported.

By contrast, other police agencies around the country uphold between 8 and 14 percent of citizen complaints about excessive force, according to federal statistics.

The Portland task force, which included members of the city's Independent Police Review Division and the Police Bureau, did not conclude that Portland police use force too frequently or that the Police Bureau failed to take citizen complaints seriously.

Rather, it concluded that Portland's use-of-force policy meets only the minimal constitutional requirements and should be tightened.

In response, Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer said Tuesday that she already has started overhauling the policy and expects to have a new one in place by the beginning of next year. Sizer also pledged to provide more training and to more closely track the frequency that officers use force.

Sizer cautioned that policy changes should not make an officer hesitate to use force when necessary.

"We need to be able to effectively use force to protect the community and ourselves," she said.

Sizer also noted that force was rare overall, with officers using it in less than 1 percent of their calls and 5 percent of all arrests. In addition, 83 percent of the time, officers used least forceful tactics, such as control holds and pressure points.

Robert King, president of the Portland Police Association, said the report vindicated Portland police officers' use of force.

"We use it reasonably and appropriately," King said.

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