Mental Health Association of Portland

Oregon's independent and impartial mental health advocate

Still waiting for someone to take the lead on mental health in Portland

Posted by CoffeeX3 on 24th June 2014

From Steve Duin of The Oregonian, June 24, 2014

I had my come-to-Jason moment in April, right after Jim Francesconi threatened to make mental health a critical issue in his campaign for Multnomah County chair.  Ten minutes with Jason Renaud convinced me Francesconi knew jack about the problem.

The rest of the hour was taken up by how stupidly little I did.

Renaud, on the board of the Mental Health Association of Portland, wasn’t surprised: “The only people intrinsically interested in mental-health issues are sick themselves, and trying to sort it out with God; have family members with mental illness; or view it as a civil-rights issue.

“If you’re not in one of those three categories,” Renaud says, “you distance yourself.”

You have good company in Portland: local political leaders.  The Multnomah County chair, Renaud argues, “is the most important person in the mental-health business.  The way the county commission is set up, the chair has all the power, and they manage the biggest health-care provider in the state, other than the penitentiary.

“What they do, others would follow, if they will only lead.  We’ve never had a county chair who took this seriously.”  Diane LinnJeff CogenTed Wheeler, now serving as state treasurer?  “Ted took this seriously when he was pinned down,” Renaud says, “but that’s how he did everything.”

That cautious detachment is understandable. Few of those ravaged by addiction and mental illness vote; fewer make campaign contributions.  Beyond the length of the line at the Portland Rescue Mission, success is hard to measure.

“It takes a graduate-school education to know how to get around (the system),” Renaud says.  “The people who can who aren’t crazy themselves are rare.”

Renaud is a recovering alcoholic, and painfully blunt.  He has seen mental illness take a tool on his family members.  He produced “Alien Boy,” the documentary on the life and 2006 death of James Chasse, and has written critically of the role of Portland police – “viciousness and thuggery” — in that death.

But in the aftermath of the June 12 death of Nick Davis, shot by Portland cops on the Springwater Corridor when Davis confronted them with a crowbar, Renaud sounds a different tone.

“In a mental-health crisis, if police are involved, a lot of other opportunities to intervene have gone by,” Renaud says.  “(Davis) had been in crisis for years, and left to his own devices.  He didn’t get well.  He didn’t become a good citizen.  Where’s the outreach worker walking up and down the Springwater Corridor, asking, ‘How can we get you out of this situation?’ That may start with some dry socks.”

Renaud credits the cops with some soul-searching in the wake of James Chasse and the Department of Justice inquiry: “(Police Chief) Mike Reese is a big part of that.”

And he believes Deborah Kafoury, the new Multnomah County chair, has the instincts and background to focus on the crisis, once she properly frames the issue.

“Her agenda is homelessness,” Renaud says, “which is a euphemism for untreated addiction and untreated mental illness by developers who want to line their pockets.”

Too many homeless advocates, he argues, would rather talk about poverty and social justice than mental illness: “Their solution is to build apartments, which just gets the problem off the streets.  That’s what the Chamber of Commerce wants, but at this point in the 21st century, that’s not sufficient.”

What is sufficient? A long-overdue audit of mental health and addiction services. An agency geared to accommodate the irrational, inconvenient needs of the patients, not the limited attention span (9 a.m – 5 p.m., weekdays only) of the staff.

A fresh focus on how public-health services are delivered at the jail: “Almost everyone who is arrested is drunk, loaded or mentally ill,” Renaud says.  And as long as they’re in custody …

A system run by professional administrators rather than the psychologists and social workers who lack business experience.  A permanently unlocked door at Hooper Detox. The occasional outreach along the Springwater Corridor and the other urban campsites.

And a county chair who refuses to blink: “If the chair says we need to do better, that we can’t put this off generation after generation, it may get repaired.”

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Review: Alien Boy “unhesitatingly indicts the Portland Police Bureau”

Posted by Jenny on 3rd June 2014

By Christine Schofelt, World Socialist Web Site, May 28, 2014

Alien Boy

Alien Boy

Brian Lindstrom’s 2013 film Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, available through Amazon and in theatrical release, makes no attempt at an evasive “even-handedness” in presenting the case of 42-year-old James Chasse, a man [diagnosed with schizophrenia] who was cruelly beaten by Portland (Oregon) police officers and later died in custody of his injuries.

Lindstrom’s film unhesitatingly indicts the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) as a body, and the officers directly involved.

Interviewing Chasse’s family members, friends and fellow artists, the filmmaker reconstructs James Chasse’s life with care and sympathy. Sensitive as a child, and constantly searching to express himself through various musical and artistic outlets, Chasse comes across as a kindly, gentle, funny, quirky young man. His friends and acquaintances speak freely to the camera, which Lindstrom lets roll unobtrusively. The troubles Chasse faced as schizophrenia manifested itself are related with concern; it was clear to everyone that he needed help, that he was slipping away at times.

Using footage of Chasse as a youth, along with his poems, drawings, music and writings, Lindstrom allows Chasse to speak for himself as well. Deftly selected works, along with the narration, show the youth’s descent into paranoia, and anguish. James’ struggle to regain normalcy—including stays in hospitals and the use of medication—and live an independent life is unsentimentally drawn and at times painful to watch. One sees the potential and creativity of James Chasse eaten away by illness. He becomes quieter, unable to take care of even his basic needs, and withdraws, as his fear (especially of the police) increases.

On September 17, 2006, Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy [Bret] Burton spotted Chasse on the streets of downtown Portland. When they tried approaching him, a frightened Chasse ran. Humphreys, who had about 100 pounds on Chasse, tackled him, “like a football player,” according to one witness, bringing him down hard onto the pavement and landing on top of him.

Witnesses to the struggle are interviewed. Jamie Marquez, a waiter at one of the upscale restaurants in the Pearl District where the encounter took place, managed to take a few pictures as the police assaulted Chasse, who lay prone on the ground, screaming in pain. Officers kicked, punched and tased Chasse, and, after he’d passed out, handcuffed and leg-cuffed him. Images taken by Marquez and others show the police, firemen and medics standing at a distance from the prone Chasse, none seeming terribly concerned about the bleeding man, few even looking at him.

Constance Doolan, one of the witnesses interviewed, says Chasse was “clearly not a dangerous person—he’s a frightened person.” She and other witnesses noted at the time, and later testified, that the police involved treated Chasse so violently that there were moments when they thought Chasse was dead after he’d lost consciousness.

That James Chasse had been tackled, tased, beaten and had passed out was not related by the officers to the medics on the scene, who released him into police custody. He was picked up by the police, and witness Randall Stuart, still clearly affected by what he saw, says in an interview, “to see another human being taken away from an already chaotic and violent scene—somewhat like a shot deer … I thought, are they going to throw him away?”

Doolan tells of being called over by one of the officers. He asked her if she wanted to know what was going on. Doolan said yes, of course, and the officer told her that Chasse had numerous crack cocaine-related arrests and had cocaine on his person at the time of the pursuit.

These were all lies. Chasse had no record, in fact, and carried no drugs. His toxicology report showed no traces of alcohol or drugs. The police, despite his having an ID with a nearby address, also listed Chasse as a transient.

The brutality of the chase, subduing and arrest of Chasse continued once he was in custody. Seen on tapes from the police department cameras, Chasse is clearly in extreme pain—his autopsy notes 26 breaks to 16 ribs, and the official cause of his death is “blunt force chest trauma.” Humphreys is heard describing to his fellow officers the tackle he later denies in court.

Footage of testimony by the officers involved shows various levels of unrepentance, and Humphreys—who at the time of Chasse’s death ranked second highest on a list of officers who used force—verges on belligerence. Asked if he would take the same course of action if confronted with the same situation, Humphreys gestures to indicate the court proceedings, asks, “Assuming none of this were happening?” and answers, “Yes.”

None of the officers involved were dismissed from their positions.

In the wake of the case, officials—including PPB Chief Rosie Sizemore and then-Mayor Tom Potter (a former police officer himself)—initially spun the case as a matter of the need for more mental health care, and training was instituted for officers to better engage with [persons with mental illness].

Under a 2012 investigation of the PPB for bias requested by Mayor Sam Adams, the US Department of Justice found that the PPB “engaged in a pattern and practice” of using “excessive force” particularly when dealing with the mentally ill, including excessive and “unnecessary” use of tasers, and that this pattern is in “violation of the Constitution of the United States.”

Since the death of Chasse, PPB officers have continued their savage treatment of the mentally ill and distressed in Portland, as well as the public at large. The additional sensitivity “training” police have received, of course, has done absolutely nothing. Portland police called in by those in distress have been known to shoot the caller.

The treatment of Portland’s Occupy protestors, as in many cities, was likewise often brutal, with the deployment of riot police and mounted officers against peaceful marchers.

As one friend of Chasse put it, “Jim happened to be mentally ill, and he happened to get scared when he saw the police and ran. But he wasn’t beaten because he was mentally ill and the cover up didn’t happen because he was mentally ill. It happened because of who the police are and what the police get away with.”

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Chris Humphreys says being sheriff in Wheeler County is not all gravy

Posted by Jenny on 31st May 2014

The Oregonian, 5/31/14, excerpt from “Oregon rural police: Sheriffs, district attorneys speak out on their challenges”

If you have spent the last 7 1/2 years chained to the floor of a concrete bunker, underground, in Antarctica, while comatose, and worse yet, it caused you to miss the film Alien Boy – see it immediately.  Then you’ll know the black-suited necktie-adorned man pictured below is Christopher Humphreys, one of the Portland police officers whose savage brutality caused the 2006 death in custody of James Chasse, a 42-year-old man diagnosed with schizophrenia. Besides Humphreys, officers who caused Chasse’s death were Kyle Nice and Bret Barton.  None of the three were ever disciplined.  Humphreys later rose to the sheriff’s seat in Wheeler County.

Chris Humphreys, Wheeler County sheriff, Fossil:

Chris Humphreys, The O on small-town sheriffs, 5-31-14

In some cases we have to utilize some “out of the box” thinking just to provide basic services. In Wheeler County, that means relying heavily on volunteers for what would normally be a paid position.

An example of this is highlighted by Mr. [Les] Zaitz‘s article: The reason Wheeler County shows such a drop in crime, especially the 2011-2012 snapshot, is because my predecessor lost funding for any office staff.  Without them, the time consuming job of compiling and reporting crime stats just went undone.  I was lucky enough to recruit a retired military staff officer who donates about 40 hours a week to manage Wheeler County’s administrative duties. In a year and a half she has donated thousands of hours, but now we are up to date on our crime statistics reporting.

As a small county sheriff, I am accustomed to climbing out of bed at 2 a.m., after being called by Dispatch, and responding to a very real and very dangerous domestic disturbance and then turning around at 2 p.m. on that same day and finding myself sitting across the table from a federal representative debating land-use issues. In both cases, we most assuredly (if somewhat tiredly) are faced with how best to serve the public safety interests of our County in light of those limited resources.

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Audio no longer recorded at Multnomah County jail booking area

Posted by Jenny on 25th April 2014

The Portland Mercury, April 23, 2014

Police carry a hog-tied, hooded James Chasse to a jail cell.

A still from the jail’s video recording shows a hog-tied, hooded James Chasse being carried in.

“WE TACKLED HIM.” The words are indistinct—sort of blurred at the edges, bleeding into one another. They are surrounded by other hazy noises, and followed by the laughter of jail deputies engaging in a bit of collegial bonhomie on a September evening.

But less than an hour later, the stakes had drastically changed from the relatively jocular moments captured in this 2006 surveillance tape. James Chasse Jr., the “him” that former Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys described tackling, had died in police custody from trauma likely caused by officers.

The low-quality footage is perhaps the most-candid police account we have of one of the more infamous cases in recent Portland police history.

If the Chasse incident happened today, Humphreys’ words would be lost.

Roughly five years ago, the sheriff’s office quietly ceased recording audio in the Multnomah County Detention Center’s booking area, where inmates are processed upon arrest.

The reasons are as foggy as the recordings were. The sheriff’s office says there were concerns about the cost of storing audio footage when the department switched over to digital data storage—but doesn’t have figures or documents reflecting those concerns. Surveillance experts, meanwhile, say audio takes up a relatively minor portion of most storage systems.

The sheriff’s office also points out that the old audio recordings were often very poor quality, making it difficult to determine who was speaking or what exactly they were saying. But the Chasse case stands as a stark counterpoint—an argument that even the worst recording can shed light on an urgent matter.

And cops who investigate officer misconduct say such recording is typically useful for exonerating cops and jailers of bogus claims.

Lieutenant Jeffrey Bell has worked in the Portland Police Bureau’s Internal Affairs Division for roughly a year, and says in that time he’s had one case where he’d have liked an audio file to accompany jail footage. He was unaware, until told by the [Portland] Mercury, that audio recordings had been scrapped for good.

“It doesn’t always show or tell everything, but it does provide a little bit of an involved witness perspective,” says Bell. “It doesn’t have a failing like human memories or biases.”

As the Chasse case played out—first in an investigation into the conduct of Humphreys and others, and then in a civil suit filed by Chasse’s family — Humphreys continuously denied he tackled Chasse, who officers thought looked suspicious.

Under the harsh glare of media scrutiny, depositions, and interrogations, Humphreys insisted he’d followed bureau procedure. When Chasse—slight of build and struggling with schizophrenia—ran from approaching officers, Humphreys said he ran him down and pushed him in the back, tripping Chasse and causing him to fall. Humphreys said he fell directly after, but not on, Chasse.

Witnesses meanwhile, used the term “tackle.” One man even called it a “flying tackle,” saying in a deposition, “that officer ended up on top of Mr. Chasse.” Those statements seem to agree more with what Humphreys casually said in the jail video—before the incident grew more serious when Chasse died of blunt force trauma to the chest.

“We tackled him,” Humphreys said. “He fell hard.”

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office can’t provide exact dates, but said the jail discontinued audio recording roughly three years after the Chasse incident. The jail switched over from an analog system because it determined digital storage of surveillance footage was much more practical, says Lieutenant Steve Alexander.

“When they did that change, the cost of the storage for audio would have been cost-prohibitive,” says Alexander, noting the sheriff’s office would have had to keep years of footage on hand. “It would be huge files. They weren’t sure how effective that would be.”

news1-570x300After discussing the matter with technology staffers, though, Alexander says there are no documents reflecting those conversations, and no estimates for how much the audio storage might have cost.

Which is curious. Audio storage is a relatively minor cost concern for surveillance systems in the digital age, according to Jim Weaver, president and CEO of MediaSolv. The Virginia-based company provides surveillance systems to law enforcement throughout North America—including agencies in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Chicago.

“I’m a little surprised the concern is for audio,” says Weaver. “The video is by far the much larger resource required.”

And data storage has grown cheaper in recent years, he says.

“If we’re just talking about audio files, I just don’t really see cost being a significant determining factor.”

There are no rules or guidelines requiring, or even suggesting, that local jails record sound, according to Rick Neimiller, a spokesman for the American Jail Association. And no statistics exist for how many jails use audio recording.

One jail somewhat similar to Multnomah County’s, the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle, only records inmates’ phone conversations, says William Hayes, the facility’s interim director. There are no microphones in the booking area.

Weaver says Toronto police record both video and audio in their booking area.

But local law enforcement is also seeing the utility of better surveillance. The Portland Police Bureau is in the early stages of a plan to outfit all of its cruisers with video and audio recording devices. Only 10 vehicles have the equipment right now.

“There are probably police officers who don’t like being videotaped or don’t like being audio recorded,” says Bell, the internal affairs lieutenant. “But if you talk to any of the officers down at Central [Precinct] who use it, they love it. Most of the time, the information ends up exonerating the officers.”

That’s a big part of what jail surveillance is designed to do: protect officers and corrections deputies from false accusations. The Multnomah County Corrections Deputies Association, a union that represents Portland’s jail guards, didn’t return numerous requests for comment on the issue of audio recording.

One of the sheriff’s office’s concerns about its old audio recordings is absolutely true: The quality was terrible.

In order for the Chasse footage to be understood, Tom Steenson, the attorney representing the Chasse family in the civil suit, spent a lot of money having the file worked over and clarified by analysts—including former FBI employees.

“It was a very important piece,” Steenson tells the Mercury. “If nothing else, you could hear Jim [Chasse] just screaming in pain. Words weren’t important. I’m not sure he was speaking words.”

In the end, the wrongful death suit filed by Chasse’s family never went to trial. The city settled the matter for $1.6 million. Multnomah County and American Medical Response, the two other defendants, also settled.

Humphreys was never disciplined for his conduct in the Chasse case. An internal investigation into whether he’d lied by claiming he hadn’t tackled Chasse—while telling jailers the opposite—also cleared him of wrongdoing.

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DOJ, PPB to sign agreement over 2006 death

Posted by CoffeeX3 on 23rd March 2014

From KOIN.com, March 23, 2014

Eds. note – the headline in this article is inaccurate, but is posted as written. On March 24 Judge Michael Simon will hear further testimony about whether the trial of Department of Justice v City of Portland should proceed. At some point after that hearing Simon will determine whether a trial should proceed. The City of Portland City Council agreed to sign the Agreement in November 2012. There were several other minor inaccuracies in this article which are changed for clarity’s sake.

After the Department of Justice found the Portland Police Bureau had a pattern of using excessive force in dealing with the mentally ill, an agreement over policy changes is expected to be signed on Friday.

But mental health advocates are concerned the agreement doesn’t do enough to prevent incidents from continuing.

In 2006, officers thought James Chasse was urinating in public. When officers approached, he ran away.

The schizophrenic man was then tackled and Tasered, and then died in a police car on the way to the hospital after a nurse at the jail denied police when they tried to drop him off.

The jailhouse video was given to the producer of a documentary on Chasse, ‘Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse’ which will be released on Tuesday. The producer said this case showcases the problems the city of Portland is not addressing.

His mother, Linda Gerber, told KOIN 6 News, “He just didn’t have a fair shake in life like most people do.”

Since Chasse’s death, PPB has taken steps to change, including the creation of a behavioral health unit.

All officers are now given training on how to handle people with mental illness.

“What we’re asking people to do is think about, is this worth chasing someone down for a potentially using force,” PPB Sgt. Pete Simpson told KOIN 6 News.

But mental health advocates and police said there needs to be a safe place for people in with mental illness to go in a crisis.

“The city recognizes through this agreement it may be something they need to do,” Simpson said. “We used to have one at a hospital. It was a crisis triage center, our drop off center for officers. That was very helpful.”

But the agreement states the city should set up a drop-off or walk-in center by mid-2013. There are no signs of that happening.

“I look at the city response or lack of response,” said Chasse’s friend Steve Doughton, “I just say it’s not Jim who’s crazy.”

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They got him on the run: Alien Boy documents a too-short, long-remembered life

Posted by Jenny on 11th March 2014

By Kathy Fennessy, The Stranger, March 10, 2014

Alien Boy, winner of the best film award at the 2013 Local Sightings Festival, begins with references to Portland bands like Poison Idea and the Wipers, but it isn’t a music film. It’s a documentary about police brutality and mental illness, since subject James Chasse, also known as Jim Jim, suffered from schizophrenia, a condition that inadvertently contributed to his tragic death.

According to his parents, Chasse had a normal childhood until junior high, when things started to get weird. But music was a solace. He sang in a band and started a fanzine, The Oregon Organizm, to which notable writers like Joe Carducci contributed. Chasse’s girlfriend remembers that he would wear whatever he wanted, including women’s clothing, for which he would get beaten up. It didn’t deter him, but the demons in his head were another matter, and his behavior became erratic.

When Chasse told Greg Sage of the Wipers that he felt like an alien, the singer turned that admission into the song “Alien Boy” (it’s fitting that Kurt Cobain shows up, via archival footage, as it’s hard not to hear Nirvana’s origins in that adolescent snarl and bass-heavy rhythm), but the Wipers connection ends there.

Chasse maintained his friendships as best he could, but while his associates were finding their way in the world, he ended up in a mental institution and a series of group homes before eventually reentering society. Independence came with a price. When he neglected to take his meds, he would stop bathing, soil himself, and face rejection from the local establishments in which his parents, James and Linda, would attempt to catch up with him. They appear to have done what they could, but it seems clear that things would only get worse.

And that’s what happened: things went from bad to horrific when an arrest for suspected public urination turned lethal. The cops used excessive force and Chasse, who didn’t receive appropriate medical treatment, died in police custody. The Oregonian and The Portland Mercury documented the ways police failed Chasse, including the untruths they told his family (former Mercury news editor Matt Davis appears in the film).

It’s all pretty grim. In contrast to the officers’ testimony during the ensuing court case, photographic evidence and surveillance footage—including disturbing audio—confirm that they acted inappropriately. Chasse may have run from the authorities, but he wasn’t combative, he wasn’t armed, and he wasn’t on drugs. He died in 2006, but the findings of the internal affairs investigation wouldn’t be released until 2010, while the family’s lawsuit wouldn’t be settled until 2011.

As Linda puts it, “He didn’t ever get to live the mainstream life of an average American man.” All those avenues—college, a music career, etc.—ended when his illness kicked in. Consequently, there wasn’t as much music content in the documentary as I had hoped, but there’s value here for viewers interested in the intersection of the police, their training, and the way we treat the mentally ill. At the very least, Chasse’s death has helped to inspire change in the city of his birth.

Alien Boy plays Northwest Film Forum through Thurs, Mar 13 (no 9pm show on Mon). Breaking Glass plans to release the film on home video later this spring.

 

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Review: Alien Boy is a must-watch for Seattle’s mayor

Posted by Jenny on 4th March 2014

By Brian Miller, Seattle Weekly, March 4, 2014

James Chasse Poet MusicianAlien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse
Runs Fri., March 7–Thurs., March 13 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 90 minutes.

Seen during last fall’s Local Sightings Film Festival, this Portland documentary was my top pick—and the jury-award winner, hence its return engagement. The 2006 death in police custody of homeless person with schizophrenia, James Chasse, will inevitably remind viewers of our own SPD shooting of John T. Williams in 2010. It also has echoes in last fall’s fatal stabbing of a Sounders fan in Pioneer Square by Donnell D. Jackson, evidently also a schizophrenic failed by the system.

Is there a culture of aggro cops, both here in Portland, that Mayor Ed Murray and our next police chief need to address? Alien Boy strongly suggests so. In Portland’s trendy Pearl District, the frail 42-year-old Chasse is football-tackled to the pavement by a cop for peeing in public. A dozen ribs are broken, a lung is punctured, Chasse is hogtied and taken to the station, and he soon dies of respiratory arrest. At the time, Chasse was a shy, fearful man living in assisted housing who loved coffee shops and the library. Friends and family tenderly recall an avid music fan during the punk-rock ’80s who published a zine, then succumbed to schizophrenia as a teenager.

Director Brian Lindstrom spent a half-dozen years following public demands for police accountability and the ensuing lawsuit against the city. Depositions and station-house videos are damning, though Lindstrom grants a police-union rep space to respond. Incoming mayor Sam Adams eventually fires the old police chief; but as in Seattle, street-level cops are maddeningly untouchable—they have all the protections and benefits that Chasse was denied in his unhappy life.

Eight years later in a different city, our new mayor can’t seem to get a handle on police discipline. Alien Boy is a film that Ed Murray and his next police chief should be required to be see. It ought to be mandatory viewing for all Seattle cops, veterans and rookies alike. Peeing in public is a nuisance, not a crime. And as this city grows ever richer yet more stratified between Amazon workers and those seeking shelter bunks (or sleeping beneath the viaduct); as taxpayers seem unwilling to fund needed mental-health services for the homeless, our sidewalks will increasingly be shared with the indigent, the mentally ill, and those committing illegal acts both large and small. James Chasse was a sad casualty of that economic conflict, a small, weak man whom the authorities deliberately chose not to protect or serve.

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Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival – Alien Boy review

Posted by Jenny on 15th November 2013

Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival 2013

Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse

Reviewed by Andrew Parker, DorkShelf.com, Nov. 10, 2013

James Chasse lies in the street after being beaten by police.

James Chasse lies in the street after being beaten by police.

James Chasse as a young boy.

James Chasse as a young boy.

An incendiary look into a case of police brutality, Brian Lindstrom’s look at one man [with schizophrenia and his] undignified and completely preventable death might be the heaviest film in this year’s festival line-up, but it also might be the most important.

On the afternoon of September 18th, 2006 in Portland, Oregon, former local punk scene stalwart James Chasse was stopped by the police under suspicion of urinating in public and generally acting spooked and paranoid. Roughly an hour later, he died from numerous broken ribs as the result of blunt force trauma and Tasering. It was an extremely well documented moment of brutality and incompetence seen by dozens of witnesses who would all say Chasse was more frightened than combative. Even hospital security camera footage shows the main officers involved (one of whom had the second highest rate of using force in the city) bragging about the incident and dragging the still alive and still very much in pain Chasse around the emergency room like a rag doll. And in spite of all of this, no criminal charges were ever filed and no remorse was shown by those responsible.

Lindstrom’s take on such a gross miscarriage of justice – one that would have been reprehensible regardless of Chasse’s mental state – is as gut-wrenching as it is comprehensive, leaving no stone unturned or viewpoint silenced. Talking to witnesses, former friends, his parents, and police union representatives with speeches so rehearsed it’s sickening, Alien Boy is assuredly depressing and sure to induce anger in most who watch it, but it’s also an invaluable document when talking about the need for better understanding of mental illness and special training that should be mandatory for anyone in the position of protecting people everywhere.

Considering James’ mental state, there’s not too much about the man’s actual life that can be confirmed, but there’s more than enough about the tragic aftermath surrounding his passing.

***

Screens

Friday, November 15th, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 6:30pm

Screening to be followed by a panel discussion with director Brian Lindstrom in attendance, and quite a stacked panel, including:

  • Moderator Susan Pigott: Executive in Residence at Ashoka Canada. Last June, she left CAMH where she was VP Communication and Community Engagement at CAMH for 6 years.
  • Pat Capponi: Author of five non-fiction books (including Bound by Duty- Walking the Beat with Canada’s Cops) and two mysteries (Penguin and HarperCollins) dealing with poverty and mental illness. She is a psychiatric survivor who works to empower her community as Lead facilitator at Voices From the Street, is co-chair of the Mental Health sub-committee of the Toronto Police Board, and is a recipient of the Order of Ontario, Queen’s Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee medals among other honours.
  • Lucy Costa: A systemic advocate with the Empowerment Council in CAMH. She is a Board Member with ARCH Disability Law Centre, Board Vice Chair of Sound Times Support Services and founder of the Mad Students Society. She is currently a Masters of Law student at Osgoode Hall Law School.
  • Matt Gurney: Columnist, Comment section editor and editorial board member at the National Post. He is host of The Exchange on News Talk Radio CJAD 800 in Montreal. He writes and speaks often on policing and mental health-care issues.
  • Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos: Clinician Scientist and the Psychiatrist-In-Chief at St. Michael’s. She is the Director of the Division of Adult Psychiatry and Health Systems and an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. She works on the development and evaluation of interventions to address health disparities, focusing on those most disadvantaged.
  • Deputy Chief Michael Federico: Toronto Police Service. He has served over 40 years, and is currently in charge of Corporate Command which includes Human Resource Management, Corporate Services, Professional Standards and Corporate Communications. He is responsible for mental health and policing issues in the community and liaises regularly with mental health service providers and consumer-survivors to discuss matters of mutual concern including police training, equipment, tactics and relationships. He also oversees the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams that pair a police officer with a mental health nurse to respond to non-criminal incidents involving emotionally disturbed persons. Deputy Chief Federico is also the President of the Board of Directors of the Vitanova Foundation, a community based substance abuse treatment centre.

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