Posted by admin2 on 30th July 2010
Archive for July, 2010
Posted by admin2 on 30th July 2010
Posted by admin2 on 30th July 2010
On Wednesday, July 28th the City of Portland paid a settlement to the family of James Chasse Jr. in response to his in-custody death at the hands of the three Portland Police officers. The Office of Independent Review gave a report to the Portland City Council outline some issues and suggested changes.
LISTEN – KBOO - James Chasse Settlement
Posted by admin2 on 29th July 2010
While the city’s settlement payment to the family of a man who died in police custody may bring an end to a wrongful-death lawsuit, some said Wednesday the case can’t be resolved with money.
Many people, including city commissioners, said they hope the lessons learned from the death of James Chasse Jr. will be a lesson on how to keep it from happening again.
In 2006 Portland police tackled and arrested Chasse for urinating in public. He appeared to suffer a seizure at the Multnomah County Jail. He died on the way to the hospital.
The coroner later said he died from blunt force trauma. Multnomah County and American Medical Response already settled with the family for about $1.5 million. Portland’s final check is a little more than three quarters of a million dollars.
For Marsha Meyers, who is involved in police reform across the country, the Chasse case should have been settled a long time ago.
“Almost four years is way too long,” she said before the City Council Wednesday morning. “It cost us a lot not only financially, but in respect for our peacekeepers.”
To the Rev. LeRoy Haines, the real payoff comes from admitting police could have done better and changing the way police are trained.
“It will be used to reform all aspects of the Portland Police Bureau and to bring justice and accountability for the citizens of Portland,” he said.
Chasse reportedly suffered from schizophrenia and city commissioners are demanding Portland police be made more aware of mental and emotional issues and more flexible with their response.
“If we mechanically and robotically respond to each incident by training protocol and don’t allow an incident to be modified by our experience and judgment, then more James Chasse cases will occur,” said City Commissioner Randy Leonard.
Portland’s new police chief, Mike Reese, said he has plans in place to make sure what happened to Chasse doesn’t happen again. He says he’s meeting with a number of city and county agencies to make sure everyone is aware of new and improved procedures as they come up.
Chasse’s family didn’t hold back their criticism of the case. In a statement they sent out Wednesday, the family said they’re relieved the case has been closed but a civil lawsuit seems to be the only form of justice in officer-involved deaths.
“We hope that what happened to James will help reform this system and to bring other, further policy changes. We know that many incremental changes have happened over the last few years, and we are grateful for those that relate to what happened to James but there is certainly much more that needs to be done.”
Posted by admin2 on 29th July 2010
The Portland City Council unanimously approved the $1.6 million settlement today in the death of James Chasse Jr., a mentally ill man who died in police custody.
“The best way to honor the life and tragic death of Mr. Chasse going forward is to forthrightly acknowledge the fact that we have a crisis in mental health in our community,” said Commissioner Nick Fish.
Mayor Sam Adams—also the police commissioner—was not present for the ordinace vote but called in from home on the settlement that was decided in May.
Chasse died four years ago and Adams stressed via telephone that the subsequent police investigation “took way too long.”
“I’m not clear why the amount of force was used for a 42-year-old schizophrenic man that weighed 145 pounds that was needed to restrain Mr. Chasse,” said Commissioner Randy Leonard.
“This ordinance settles a law suit but it does not settle the matter,” said Fish.
Below is a statement issued today from the family of Chasse:
“We would like to thank all of those who have supported us and the memory of James over the last four years. Many people in the public have continued to express their concern and to help focus the discussion where it has belonged over the last few years. Thank you. We would also like to thank Tom Steenson, Tom Schneiger and the many good people at Steenson, Schumann, Tewksbury, Creighton & Rose for their tireless efforts in seeking justice for James.
This is the only statement we plan on making as a family at this time. We are looking forward, finally, to seeking some personal closure to a gaping, four year-old wound. It has been very difficult to continue dealing with what happened to James as a public matter, and we feel it is very important, finally, to seek some private peace.
It is our understanding that our lawyers may release some factual summaries at a later time, and anyone interested in that may refer to their statements for more detail. We expect their comments to detail many issues, including how some of the issues they discovered in the case tied directly into issues that the City had been repeatedly warned about by the City’s consultants (PARC) and others. They obviously know the facts much better than we do, and it only makes sense for them to detail those facts.
Deciding to settle James’s case against the City was not an easy decision for us. Our lawyers advised us against the City’s final offer. While they were certain that we would prevail and likely be awarded much more in monetary damages at trial, we felt there was little more for us to gain by proceeding through trial. It had become clear that the policy issues we feel are important (and sought to change in the lawsuit) would not be addressed in a trial or through settlement. The previously concealed facts will be made available to the public as part of the settlement. The trial promised to be at least three weeks long. We, James’s family, would have had to, once again, endure the retelling of his violent, painful, and needless death, witnessing dozens of gruesome autopsy photos of James, listening to days of testimony about how and why his bones broke, and enduring false and offensive attacks on James and the mentally ill. As the City has said that it would have been difficult for the City to go through the trial, it would have been a cruel ending to the four years of tormented mourning we’ve experienced over James’s horrible death. Then, even if there had been some cathartic effect of getting the facts out through trial, there could be no real assurance that those facts would be accurately or consistently received by the public. Many of the early, erroneous reports about James (e.g., that he was “homeless,” “urinating,” “violent,” etc.) are still often repeated as truth, even though those errors have been repeatedly corrected by widely available facts. Our lawyers’ research left little doubt that we would prevail at trial, but the pain of proceeding seemed too great for how little there would be to gain. We feel that we have done all that we can through this system.
We are relieved that the case has settled, but it is a very rough form of justice: the truth is that a civil suit seems to be the only form of justice that our local system will allow when police are involved in a killing.
Clearly, the local criminal justice system and the Police Bureau’s internal disciplinary groups, both working hand-in-hand daily with the police themselves, are not currently capable of pursuing the public’s interests with these issues. If our local emergency workers wish to be seen as heroes, it seems they should be held to a higher standard, not to a secret, self-run, and different standard. There is no avenue for real accountability or real justice in the current system, which can obviously lead to abuses of power by those who have the power of life and death over us. We hope that what happened to James will help to reform this system and to bring other, further policy changes. We know that many incremental changes have happened over the last few years, and we are grateful for those that relate to what happened to James, but there is certainly much more that needs to be done.
Finally, those who knew James knew that he was a painfully shy person, more interested in books and comic books about royalty and superheroes than in talking. When he did talk, he often spoke quietly about noble ideals, such as peace, truth, and justice. While those discussions sometimes seemed other-worldly, we now see that his feelings have helped us to find a greater meaning to his life. James was violently and very publicly removed from our lives on September 17, 2006. The lasting tribute of his life demanded that truth and justice come from what happened to him. He has, in the end, brought desperately needed attention to long-ignored and very serious problems. In the process, this shy and gentle soul, born and so firmly grounded in Portland, has become a hero greater than many to whom we usually look as heroes.
We are hopeful that others will join us in remembering James, and will continue to work toward reforms that will ensure that nothing like what happened to him will happen again. These have been very difficult times for us, but we are hopeful that we will finally be able to come to some peace. Thank you again to the many that have supported us and James.
James, may you rest in peace. We love you and we miss you.
Portland police union pledges ongoing support for officers involved in James P. Chasse Jr.’s 2006 death in custody
Posted by admin2 on 29th July 2010
The newly-elected Portland police union president released a statement this afternoon, citing his association’s support for the officers involved in the death-in-custody case of James P. Chasse Jr.
“The officers and supervisors who responded to the incident followed their Portland Police Bureau training according to the policies and procedures at that time. Since then, Bureau policies have changed, attempting to adapt to law enforcement’s changing role in society,” wrote Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association. “The PPA will continue to support Officers Chris Humphreys and Bret Burton, and Sergeant Kyle Nice. We will work to vindicate their names, careers and integrity.”
The statement was released a day after the City Council voted 4 to 0 to pay $1.6 million to settle the Chasse family’s federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
The union’s full statement is below:
“Since 2006, the Portland Police Association has seen the death of James Chasse as a tragic accident. His family was devastated and the lives of the officers involved have been changed forever.
The officers and supervisor who responded to the incident followed their Portland Police Bureau training according to the policies and procedures at that time. Since then, Bureau policies have changed, attempting to adapt to law enforcement’s changing role in society. The PPA will continue to support Officers Chris Humphreys and Bret Burton, and Sergeant Kyle Nice. We will work to vindicate their names, careers and integrity.
Vilifying law enforcement masks the real issue of the broken mental health system in Oregon. The system has been stripped of its staffing, funding and resources by local and state government. A 2010 study by the Treatment Advocacy Center ranks Oregon 36th in the nation in per capita expenditures by its state mental health authority.
Across the country, law enforcement management is all too aware that jails and prisons have become modern-day mental hospitals, returning our mentally ill to conditions of the early nineteenth century where 15-20% of incarcerated inmates suffered serious mental illness.
We look forward to participating with the community and the City to find innovative and appropriate solutions to better protect and care for our mentally ill citizens.”
READ – Solutions to Chasse tragedy lie outside law enforcement, Portland Police Association press release, July 29, 2010
Posted by admin2 on 29th July 2010
The Portland City Council made final approval Wednesday of a $1.6 million settlement with the family of James Chasse Jr., who died in police custody in 2006.
Chasse died September 17th of that year after he was tackled by police officers who chased him for allegedly urinating in public. He was also shot with a stun gun.
In addition to the financial settlement, the city will be releasing reports on the case which had not been made public. Chasse family attorney Tom Steenson said release of those reports will go through a brief legal process and should be ready for viewing in mid-August.
The Chasse family issued a statement through Steenson. It reads in part:
“We are looking forward, finally, to seeking some personal closure to a gaping, four year-old wound. It has been very difficult to continue dealing with what happened to James as a public matter, and we feel it is very important, finally, to seek some private peace.
Our lawyers advised us against the City’s final offer. While they were certain that we would prevail and likely be awarded much more in monetary damages at trial, we felt there was little more for us to gain by proceeding through trial.
It had become clear that the policy issues we feel are important (and sought to change in the lawsuit) would not be addressed in a trial or through settlement. The previously concealed facts will be made available to the public as part of the settlement.
The trial promised to be at least three weeks long. We, James’s family, would have had to, once again, endure the retelling of his violent, painful, and needless death, witnessing dozens of gruesome autopsy photos of James, listening to days of testimony about how and why his bones broke, and enduring false and offensive attacks on James and the mentally ill.
The truth is that a civil suit seems to be the only form of justice that our local system will allow when police are involved in a killing. Clearly, the local criminal justice system and the Police Bureau’s internal disciplinary groups, both working hand-in-hand daily with the police themselves, are not currently capable of pursuing the public’s interests with these issues.”
Officers took him first to the Multnomah County jail but a nurse told them Chasse could not be booked in his condition. He died on the way to the hospital.
An 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.
Of the $1.6 million, about $766,000 will be paid immediately by the city and about $276,000 by the city’s insurance company. The balance will be paid out by the insurance company in monthly payments over the next five to seven years to attorneys for the Chasse family.
The family had already settled for $925,000 with Multnomah County for a sheriff’s deputy involved in the death, and a reported $600,000 with an ambulance company.
Posted by admin2 on 29th July 2010
Outside consultants shared with the Portland City Council Wednesday night the gaps and unasked questions in the police investigation of James P. Chasse Jr.’s death in custody, hours after the council approved a settlement of $1.6 million, the city’s largest, in a federal suit.
Police Chief Mike Reese apologized for Chasse’s death and said officers must do their jobs in a “more thoughtful and collaborative manner” with outside agencies. He called the three-year delay in the Police Bureau’s internal review “completely unacceptable.”
“We cannot change the outcome of what happened Sept. 17, 2006,” Reese said. “I’m very sorry for this tragic event and for the suffering that it caused.”
The chief said he agreed with the majority of the 27 recommendations offered by the California-based OIR Group and hoped they would help mend the rift between the bureau and the community.
Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade ordered that report. It recommended a range of reforms, among them requiring police to conduct face-to-face interviews with civilian witnesses and sending internal affairs investigators out to a scene immediately.
But the attorney who brought the wrongful-death lawsuit against the city for Chasse’s family said the consultants’ report got facts wrong and overlooked the bureau’s systemic failure to hold its officers and supervisors accountable.
Attorney Tom Steenson said the facts of the case were that officers who were involved in Chasse’s death changed their accounts of what occurred during the inquiry. They were not upfront with medical personnel about their use of force, they falsely suggested bread crumbs that Chasse dropped were cocaine when he had no drugs on him, and they lied to witnesses about Chasse’s past.
“There has been a consistent and repeated effort, conscious or otherwise, resulting in a failure to discipline officers,” Steenson said. “As a result, I believe they can act in impunity in the use of excessive force and can lie about it and attempt to cover it up.”
Other community members agreed, saying they were disappointed there’s been no serious accountability for the three officers who confronted Chasse. Officer Chris Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice received two-week unpaid suspensions. Bret Burton, a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy at the time, was not disciplined and has since been hired by Portland police.
Community members also disputed police suggestions that Chasse’s death marked a failure of the mental health system.
“In almost four years of review, no police officers were held accountable. No indictment, no crime, no personal accountability … ,” said Jason Renaud, a volunteer with the Mental Health Association of Portland who knew Chasse.
“Until you have the powers to act publicly and decisively in response to a critical incident, you cannot give assurance what happened to James Chasse will not happen again,” Renaud said. “What happened to James Chasse was not a failure of the system, of the institution, of the city. It was an unforgivable failure of three individual officers.”
Earlier Wednesday, city commissioners approved the $1.6 million settlement to Chasse’s family by a 4-0 vote. The agreement had been announced in May. Commissioner Dan Saltzman was not present. Mayor Sam Adams, ill at home with strep throat, voted by phone; he also participated by phone in Wednesday evening’s session.
On Sept. 17, 2006, police thought Chasse, 42, who had schizophrenia, might have urinated in the street in the Pearl District and tried to stop him. They chased him and knocked him to the ground, then wrestled with him to arrest him.
Multnomah County jail staff refused to book him because of his medical condition. He died in police custody en route to a hospital.
An autopsy found he died of broad-based blunt-force trauma to the chest. He suffered 26 breaks to 16 ribs, some of which punctured his left lung.
The consultants said the three-year pace of the internal investigation was a “letdown” to the community. They found Multnomah County refused to allow its employees to be interviewed by internal affairs investigators until after they were deposed in the civil suit. Also, AMR ambulance staff refused to speak to homicide detectives until they faced grand jury subpoenas.
The report indicated that command staff steered internal affairs investigators away from looking into allegations that officers at the scene misinformed a witness by falsely claiming Chasse had 14 drug convictions. Also, the inquiry never delved into the apparent lack of supervision of the officers by then-Transit Cmdr. Donna Henderson.
Derald Walker, chief executive officer of Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, stunned observers when he told the council that Henderson is now on the agency’s board of directors.
“I’m sort of surprised the commander of Transit (then) is now on the board of Cascadia. There’s some irony there,” said Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch.
Consultants also found investigators failed to question why officers carried Chasse in maximum restraints to a car, which exacerbated his injuries, and kept him there while they did paperwork across the street from jail before booking him.
Chasse’s family released a statement Wednesday, saying their decision to settle the case was not easy. However, they felt there was little to gain by going to trial, even though their lawyers advised them against the city’s final offer.
“We are relieved that the case has settled, but it is a very rough form of justice: the truth is that a civil suit seems to be the only form of justice that our local system will allow when police are involved in a killing,” their statement said.
They ended their statement with a tribute to Chasse, a “painfully shy” man who preferred comic books about superheroes over talking.
“James, may you rest in peace. We love you and miss you.”
Tags: Bret Burton, Christopher Humphreys, Dan Handelman, Dan Saltzman, Derald Walker, Donna Henderson, James Chasse, Jason Renaud, Kyle Nice, LaVonne Griffin-Valade, Mike Reese, Sam Adams, Tom Steenson
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