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What Happened to James Chasse: Mayor upset he wasn’t notified about Chasse death sooner

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mayor upset he wasn’t notified about Chasse death sooner

from the Associated Press +

As the Portland Police Bureau continues to investigate the recent death of a man in police custody, the mayor was pushing to find out why he wasn’t informed sooner.

The incident happened on Sunday, Sept. 17, when officers confronted James Chasse in Northwest Portland. Police said he was acting erratically. They eventually used a taser to take him into custody, according to investigators

Chasse was showing signs of breathing problems, police said, and medics were called to the scene. After checking out Chasse, police said his vital signs were normal and they took him to the Multnomah County Detention Center.

But officers said once again he had breathing problems, so they took him to the hospital. Chasse died en route, according to police.

Mayor Tom Potter was not alerted about the incident until a week later because the day after Chasse died, Potter and his wife departed for a nine-day trip to Germany and his staff did not want to interrupt him while on vacation.

Acting Mayor Dan Salzman was notified as well as other city government leaders.

Potter was clearly upset about that decision.

“We are making a number of changes in the police bureau. I want to make sure those changes occur and I want to make sure I am notified in these kinds of situations,” Potter said. “Any time the police are involved in the taking of a human life, to me that's a deep concern."

The mayor’s chief of staff, Nancy Hamilton, said she chose to notify Potter after the medical examiner determined Chasse died as a result of trauma to the chest. She said the timing of the notification was her decision and she now believes she made a mistake.

“On Friday when the medical examiner's report came back and the cause of death was not what we anticipated, we made the decision to call the mayor at that time. In retrospect, I should have called him on the first day of the case,” she said.

The mayor said he has now made it very clear that he should be notified of similar events should they occur in the future, regardless of his vacation status.

Beyond the mayor, he is the police commissioner and said he wants to know what’s happening in his bureau at all times.

Meantime, Hamilton said she also established a notification system for the mayor should she be absent.

Mayor Potter said he was confident that everyone was on the same page now.

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