Portland Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced today [Nov. 5] the 80-hour suspension of two Portland police officers in association with the death of a man who died in police custody three years ago.
[James] Chasse died in police custody September 17, 2006.
Saltzman, who is in charge of the police bureau, made the decision to suspend Sergeant Kyle Nice and officer Christopher Humphreys for two weeks without pay.
“I deeply empathize with the Chasse family’s grief and the impact this has had on their lives,” a statement from Saltzman said Wednesday. “I understand how some might see this as an overreaction to a seemingly minor infraction, or look ay the outcome and conclude that the officers engaged in misconduct … I have concluded that with one exception, the officers’ conduct did not violate the Bureau’s policies and procedures in effect at that time.”
Officers said Chasse appeared to be urinating outdoors and when he tried to get away they tackled him. Medics were called to the scene and Chasse showed normal vital signs, then officers took him to the Multnomah County Detention Center according to officers.
Police Union spokesperson Scott Westerman said the decision was a slap in the face for Chief Rosie Sizer.
“No police officer believes that James Chasse deserved to die,” Westerman said. “We are here today because the discipline recommendation … is nothing more than a politician playing politics” with the lives of the officers.
Westerman added Saltzman was “unable to discipline medical crews or jail nurses, so he is taking aim at these officers for political posturing.”
According to the autopsy report, a nurse at the jail advised officers to take Chasse to the hospital. Police said he died as they were transporting him there, according to the report.
The autopsy revealed that Chasse suffered 26 rib fractures and a punctured lung. The autopsy concluded the death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.
The decision comes more than a month after Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer recommended suspending Sgt. Nice for not calling the paramedics after he used his Taser on Chasse.
Other than that issue, Sizer says the Use of Force Review Board found officers acted in line with police bureau policy.
Chasse was 42 years old and suffered from schizophrenia.
His death has launched a firestorm of criticism, from mental health advocates, who are concerned how police treat those with mental illness.
MORE – One Notable Difference in How Chief Sizer Handled the Chasse and Kaer Cases, Willamette Week, November 5, 2009
MORE – Officers’ suspension recommended 3 years after Chasse death, NWCN.com, November 5, 2009
MORE – Tougher discipline sought against officers involved in custody death, Longview Daily News, November 5, 2009
MORE – Police Union Criticizes Proposed Suspensions, KPTV.com, November 5, 2009