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What Happened to James Chasse: Panel to look at police complaint

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Panel to look at police complaint

from The Oregonian

Richard Prentice was arrested after posting a flier that criticized three officers

The Portland Police Bureau's internal affairs division will investigate whether police wrongly arrested and intimidated a North Portland man after he taped a flier to the federal courthouse calling three officers "murderers."

The bureau's oversight agency -- the Independent Police Review Division -- told the bureau in a letter dated Aug. 1 that 33-year-old Richard Prentice's complaint is worthy of further investigation.

Officer Matt Wells arrested Prentice on June 14 after Prentice taped a flier to the federal courthouse in downtown Portland. Wells seized Prentice's flier, which included the names and photographs of Portland police Officers Brett Burton, Kyle Nice and Christopher Humphreys. It read "WANTED . . . These SCUM BAGS killed an innocent man named Jim Chasse by beating him to death. They are still employed by the Portland police department."

Prentice said the two officers who drove him to Central Precinct berated him for criticizing police for the death of James P. Chasse Jr. Chasse, who had schizophrenia, died Sept. 17 from multiple rib fractures after police chased him and tackled him.

Once at Central Precinct, Prentice said two of the officers whom he named on the flier -- Nice and Humphreys -- entered his holding cell and confronted him about the flier.

Police charged Prentice with violating a city code "Advertising in Streets." Although the law is still on the books and police say they haven't been told not to use it, city leaders have expressed little confidence in its constitutionality. The Multnomah County district attorney's office declined to prosecute Prentice last month.

Benjamin Haile, Prentice's attorney, said he learned of the Independent Police Review's decision to ask the bureau to investigate in a letter he received Tuesday. He said the decision was vindication for his client.

Lauri Stewart, outreach coordinator for the oversight panel, said her agency asks Portland police to investigate about one-third of the roughly 800 complaints it receives on Portland police each year.

The bureau could determine Prentice's complaint is unfounded or it could determine the officers acted improperly and should be disciplined.

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