1 in 6 people has a common mental illness at some point in their life (Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, 2000).
About 1% of the population experience schizophrenia at some point in their lives (Mental Health Foundation, 1999).
About 1% of the population experience manic depression at some point in their lives (Mental Health Foundation, 1999).
1 in 200 people have experienced a psychotic illness in the last year (Singleton, Psychiatric Morbidity, 2000).
The average age of onset of psychotic symptoms is 22 (Department of Health, 2001)
Deprived areas and rural districts have the highest levels of mental health problems and suicides (ONS, 2001).
People from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are 3-5 times more likely than others to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia. (Mental Health Foundation, 1999)
About 25% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia will make a full recovery; about 60% of people will have fluctuating symptoms; about 10-15% of people experience long term incapacity (Mental Health Foundation, 1999).
35% of people with mental illness are unemployed but want to work (ONS, 2003), the highest want to work rate of any disability.
Only 1 in 4 employers said that they would knowingly employ someone with a history of mental illness (Manning et al, 1995).
Three quarters of employers say that it would be difficult or impossible to employ someone diagnosed with schizophrenia (DWP, 2003).
Less than 5% of people who kill a stranger have symptoms of mental illness (Department of Health, 2001).
People with mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence (Walsh, 2003).
More than 1 in 4 people with severe mental illness report being shunned when seeking help (Rethink, 2003).
30% of GPs’ time is spent with people with mental health problems (Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (Maudsley Monograph, 2002).
44% of people with mental health problems report discrimination from general practioners, such as physical health problems not being taken seriously (Mental Health Foundation, 2002).
Almost 80% of carers for someone with a severe mental illness say that caring has had an impact on own their mental health (Rethink, 2003).
Almost 80% of carers for someone with a severe mental illness say that caring has had an impact on their own physical health (Rethink, 2003).
Only 48% of mental health professionals know about local policies on sharing information with carers (Rethink/IoP, 2006).
Mental health problems cost the economy untold billions per year through care costs, economic losses and premature death. (Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 2003).
21% of people with schizophrenia have a dual diagnosis (Cantwell, 2003).
Up to half of people dependent on alcohol have a mental health problem (Turning Point, 2003).
People with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die 10 years younger due to physical health problems (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2000) and have double the average rate of heart disease (British Journal of Psychiatry, 2006) and five times the average rate of diabetes (Department of Health, 2004).
People with severe mental illness smoke twice as much as average, do half as much exercise and eat less fruit and vegetables than average (Running on empty report, 2005).
James Chasse lies in the street after being beaten by police.
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.
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.
Alien Boy will be shown at the Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, on Friday, Nov. 15, 6:30 PM, at TIFF Bell Lightbox. The showing will be Alien Boy’s Canadian premiere.
On September 17, 2006, James Chasse was stopped by three law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon, in broad daylight. A dozen eyewitnesses watched in horror as the officers tackled, beat, kicked, and Tasered James until he lay motionless on the pavement with 16 broken ribs and a punctured lung. He died in the back seat of a Portland Police car two hours later.
James had not committed a crime, so why did the officers attack him? Who was James Chasse? The officers told eyewitnesses that he was a drug dealer, a homeless person, a non-person, a ghost. However that wasn’t true at all. James was a writer, an illustrator, and a musician; he had a home and a family and friends who loved him. He was a small, shy, gentle person who had been living with schizophrenia for most of his life.
Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse explores his childhood, his involvement in the early Portland punk music scene, the heart-breaking teenage onset of his schizophrenia, and his brave efforts to avoid institutionalization and maintain his independence.
Using interviews, personal writings, archival footage, official documents, and videotaped depositions of the police officers involved, the film examines James Chasse’s life and the police actions and decisions that led to his death. What emerges is an intimate and complex story of one man’s life, the Chasse family’s struggle for justice, and a city grappling with accountability.
Made as a Kickstarter project, Alien Boy took over six years to create with financial and in-kind support from over 1500 people.
Filmmaker Bio: Alien Boy is director Brian Lindstrom’s third feature-length documentary. Kicking (2003) is about drug detoxification and Finding Normal (2006) is about recovery from drug addiction.
Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse Friday, November 15
6:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Brian Lindstrom, USA, 2013, 90 min, English, Canadian Premiere, Rated 14A
Then-PPA attorney Will Aitchison (L) in 2010, with Fred Bryant (R), father of Keaton Otis.
Will Aitchison, the longtime (and now retired) attorney for the Portland Police Association (PPA), was known for many things over the decades he spent defending his client in contract talks, court fights, government hearings, and arbitration cases.
He’s sharp-tongued. He’s deft with explanations. He’s disarmingly charming. And he’s always—impeccably—prepared for battle. Lore has it he’s never lost an excessive-force case in all his years working for the PPA.
His last bravura performance—the arbitration hearing that overturned the firing of Ron Frashour, the cop who shot and killed Aaron Campbell nearly four years ago—showcased each of those strengths.
When PPA President Daryl Turner publicly lambasted the city for failing to immediately abide by that ruling, his comments drew heavily from Aitchison’s pointed cross-examination of a former PPA president, Lieutenant Robert King. Under questioning from Aitchison, King (allegedly tearfully) acknowledged having changed his mind about Frashour’s conduct over the course of assembling a document reviewing whether the cop had followed training. The city’s expensive private lawyers apparently hadn’t realized the PPA was aware of King’s evolving opinion.
So imagine my surprise last Friday, September 27, when I heard Aitchison, in public, actually admit to being less than prepared.
Aitchison had agreed to participate in a police accountability panel at Lewis & Clark, part of the ACLU of Oregon’s annual conference. He’d spent several minutes mounting a cheery and technical defense of the role the PPA plays in the police discipline process.
His acknowledgment came after watching the panelist who followed him—attorney Greg Kafoury, one of the brightest lights in the city’s police accountability firmament—rip through a list of his recent cases. The whole thing was a good bit of theater in a conversation that laid bare the fundamental contradictions in Portland’s accountability mechanisms.
“I did not come here thinking this would be a discussion of individual incidents,” Aitchison deadpanned before telling the crowd, later, that just once in his tenure—Frashour’s case—did an arbitrator ever weigh the fate of a cop actually fired for excessive force.
It didn’t help. Kafoury, with the requisite bombast of a trial lawyer used to arguing in front of juries, had already won over the crowd (which included, it should be noted, Mayor Charlie Hales‘ chief of staff, Gail Shibley).
Greg Kafoury and his son, Jason Kafoury, have spent years persuading juries to award their clients taxpayer dollars in police misconduct cases. He offered a familiar list of cops and victims. And a point. For all the money his clients make, actual discipline for those incidents is exceedingly rare.
Sergeant Kyle Nice, a cop in the beating of James Chasse Jr., was later reported by another cop for anger issues, but kept on the streets—only to wind up in a road-rage case. Officer Leo Besner, who racked up hundreds of thousands in brutality settlements and jury awards, including the death of Raymond Gwerder, won a promotion and high praise from Police Chief Mike Reese.
Kafoury’s pièce de résistance, however, was a never-before-seen clip of retired Chief Rosie Sizer giving a deposition in Nice’s road-rage case. Sizer recalled the PPA’s march on city hall, in defense of a cop who bean-bagged a 12-year-old girl. She also admitted that no cop in all the years she’d been at the bureau had ever been fired over the excessive use of force.
“They didn’t survive the labor process,” she said.
Kafoury mused about the message all of that might send to young cops. That they can’t be touched. That a jury’s rebuke won’t matter. Not when commanders don’t care. Not when a skilled PPA attorney, in those examples that do manage to rouse the brass, outworks the city.
“Litigation is not the answer,” Kafoury said.
So what is? How about a citizen panel—an independent group charged with considering misconduct cases and then meting out punishment. It’ll take an expensive campaign to revise the city’s charter. Kafoury says he’s willing to help lead the way.
“Call my office and leave your name,” he said, “and say you’re interested.”
Just as the Seahawks draw fans from as far away as Anchorage and Missoula and Boise and even (gasp!) Portland, the Local Sightings Film Festival has become a regional showcase for cinema from the greater Northwest. Now in its 16th edition, the fest has grown to nearly 20 features and docs this year, plus several packages of shorts, offsite screenings, and seminars featuring talent like Lynn Shelton (Touchy Feely, Humpday). There’s no theme per se besides low-budget indie regionalism, so you never know what title will resonate.
James Chasse, the subject of Alien Boy, as a young music fan
The best and most infuriating title I previewed for LSFF is a documentary set in Portland’s trendy Pearl District circa 2006. In Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse (3 p.m. Sun.), its 42-year-old schizophrenic subject 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. The case is like Seattle’s scandalous 2010 police shooting of John T. Williams, made even more timely by the recent Sounders stabber, Donnell D. Jackson, evidently also a schizophrenic failed by the system. Chasse was at the other end of the mental-health spectrum—a shy, frail, 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 during his late teen years.
In pursuing a story that was well-reported in Portland but not quite national news, director Brian Lindstrom spent a half-dozen years following public demands for police accountability and the 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. These overzealous officers also inevitably recall our own 2009 case in Belltown: Christopher Harris, permanently brain-damaged by King County sheriffs with a similarly aggressive tackle.
Alien Boy is a sad reminder of how, from Pioneer Square to the Pearl District to Times Square, our public places attract the indigent, the mentally ill, and those committing illegal acts. How we treat or police those people is a matter of public policy and spending priorities. The easiest option is to do nothing, making the life of James Chasse seem very cheap.
The author bought this T-shirt at In Other Words bookstore.
Living in Portland you have to know the name James Chasse.
You must know that police tackled Chasse, who was [diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia], in front of restaurants in the Pearl District. You must have heard that the three police officers involved alleged that Chasse was urinating when they went to approach him, while many eye witnesses said otherwise. You must have heard that he was tased and the police turned away the EMT’s sent to check Chasse. Surely you’ve seen the picture of him lying on the ground while cops stood drinking coffee above him. You had to have heard that when he was taken to jail the nurse there said he was too badly injured to remain there, and ordered the police to take him to a hospital. Maybe you’ve seen the gut-wrenching video from the jail of the cops carrying a hog-tied Chasse out to a patrol car, as he screamed in agony. And of course you must have heard that on the ride to Portland Adventist, James Chasse stopped breathing and died.
The State Medical Examiner said Chasse had 48 separate abrasions and bruises on his body, as well as 16 fractured ribs and 26 different breaks along his rib cage. The Oregonian’s columnist, Steve Duin (who also happens to be a veteran rugby player), balked at the assertion that only a tackle to the pavement resulted in those kinds of injuries; “If that’s the way it worked, a dozen rugby players would die every weekend out at Delta Park”.
As a result of Chasse’s death, the media fallout, legal settlements and a major investigation by the Department of Justice on how Portland’s law enforcement handles its [citizens with mental illness], the Portland Police Bureau had to face the hard reality that it was woefully behind other major American cities departments.
I remember watching a video on KGW news earlier this year profiling the news of Portland’s newest police unit—the Behavioral Health Unit, which includes proactive, front-line police patrols called the Mobile Crisis Unit—and thinking, finally. According to a press release from the Portland Police, the Mobile Crisis Unit involves three teams of cars, each with an officer and a social worker or mental health care worker riding along. In their press release, they describe how “the Mobile Crisis Unit will continue to proactively work with individuals who have multiple contacts with police to attempt to connect them with appropriate services in advance of a mental health crisis.” Memphis, Tennessee’s police department has had this program in their city since the late eighties, and Portland’s now modeled their program after it.
But about halfway through the KGW profile piece I’m confused and filled with rage.
The three officers involved in the Chasse case included Portland Police Officer Chris Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice, and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy Bret Burton. Humphreys is now the sheriff in Wheeler County, Sgt. Nice was allowed to return to duty about a year ago, after an off-duty road rage incident where he pulled a gun on a motorist, and the Portland Police eventually hired Burton.
Anyone want to take a guess who one of the first officers hired for the MCU was?
A guy by the name of Officer Bret Burton.
Just so you know his role exactly, Burton was actually the one who tased Chasse that day.
“It’s something that’s definitely changed my life and changed the way we do police work here in the city,” he says in the KGW video piece when discussing Chasse’s death.
Yeah, and I bet it’s changed Chasse’s family and friends lives too.
By the way, the award for understatement of the year goes to Jason Renaud, co-founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland, when he told The Skanner, “We were very surprised that Burton was selected of all the officers taking courses”.
Has anything really changed with the Portland Police? By having one of the officers hired for this important unit be one of those whose interaction with Chasse ultimately led to his death, the department’s making a pretty strong statement regarding the priority of the MCU and the BHU, in my eyes. It feels like they’re essentially thumbing their noses at the Department of Justice regarding the settlement they were forced to make too.
All right, maybe I’m being a bit reactionary. Maybe Officer Burton is right for this unit because he has learned from the Chasse tragedy how to better handle someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Maybe he’s determined to never let something like this happen again and that’s why he was recruited to MCU. Perhaps what he says in that KGW report is right; Chasse’s death has changed him and it’s changed the Portland Police. Renaud (who knew Chasse personally) went on to tell The Skanner, “Perhaps he is the person who is most affected by this work and has somehow been transformed. Perhaps he is more conscious of people with mental illness.”
It is worth noting Burton and the other two officers that made initial contact with Chasse that day were never indicted, nor disciplined by any agency. You can have an opinion either way whether that was the right call or not.
But quite honestly, it feels like a slap in the face of anyone who struggles with mental health concerns. How could you, as [a person with mental illness] in crisis who makes contact with the MCU, ever fully trust them—much less Officer Burton if he shows up at your door? How can you ever fully believe the mission of the MCU is to actually help you? When the MCU comes across you when you are experiencing a mental health crisis, your first thought should be something like a feeling of relief that someone is going to work with you to get the help you need—not I hope I make it out of this cop car safely today.
Those dealing with certain types of mental health issues like schizophrenia, mania or psychosis can often become paranoid, and their delusions and hallucinations can even involve people in uniforms out to hurt them, like they are being specifically targeted. Oftentimes these often irrational thoughts are just part of their symptoms of their illness. But as the Portland Police seems to continue to pay lip service to the citizens they are sworn to protect—including their most vulnerable ones—maybe the irrational thoughts aren’t completely irrational after all.
Mayor Charlie Hales stunned Multnomah County officials Tuesday when he announced that the city would no longer pay its share of a 16-bed secure mental health treatment center that opened two years ago after the death of James P. Chasse Jr.
Portland police haven’t taken anyone to the Crisis Assessment Treatment Center despite a much-celebrated city-county agreement signed in 2011 that called for each to pay 20 percent, or $634,000, of the center’s $3.5 million operating costs. The state picks up the rest. Since the center’s opening in June 2011, 1,297 people have been treated there.
Hales said the city should fund public safety services, not public health programs.
“CATC is a mental health facility, plain and simple,” Hales said. “It’s not where police officers can drop people off.”County Chairman Jeff Cogen called the mayor’s budget recommendation “short-sighted” and a mistake. It will mean the county-run center must reduce its beds to 11 and serve about 200 fewer people a year — some of whom will undoubtedly come into contact with police on the street, he said.
The center opened in June 2011 off Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in response to the 2006 death of Chasse, 42, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and died in police custody.
In addition to the city and county commitment, the Portland Development Commission provided $2 million for development and the state contributed $1 million to renovate the second floor of the David P. Hooper Sobering Center for the new center.
Its staff provides patients up to 14 days of assessment and treatment and develops a treatment plan for them after they leave the center.
“Going there means they can get stabilized in a humane and cost-efficient way,” Cogen said. “The genesis of this was James Chasse’s death.”
He said he was perplexed by the mayor’s proposal, considering a recent U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found Portland police have a pattern of using excessive force against people with mental illness.
He also pointed to the city’s proposed $2.3 million settlement with a man suffering from mental illness shot by a Portland officer two years ago.
That alone is “four times the amount the city spends for this center,” Cogen said.
Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said the memorandum of understanding between the city and county on the center’s operation has “a number of barriers” that make it prohibitive for police to take people there but declined to identify them.
Capt. Sara Westbrook, tapped to lead the Police Bureau’s new Behavioral Health Unit, said the county’s center “has never been on police radar.” The open-floor plan makes it unsuitable to drop off someone in crisis and a danger to themselves, she said.
“It’s a valuable service,” said Lt. Cliff Bacigalupi, who is overseeing the creation of a new police Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team of officers. “It just wasn’t a good fit for us.”
For years, Portland police have lamented the 2003 closing of the county-sponsored Crisis Triage Center at Providence Medical Center, where officers could drop off someone they encountered during a call who needed immediate mental health care. But the triage center quickly became overrun with patients. It also provided no treatment once people left. County budget cuts closed the triage center.
Cogen said the newer Crisis Assessment Treatment Center was never intended to be a “drop-off” center.” It’s designed for people suffering a mental health crisis who might hurt themselves or others. To be admitted, a person must first undergo an assessment at a hospital, a walk-in clinic or in the field by a mental health worker, such as a Project Respond staffer.
“The police, for some reason, don’t want to go through that step. They’d like a place they can go and dump people,” Cogen said. “The idea that it doesn’t deserve city support because it’s not that, even when it was never supposed to be, is preposterous.”
The city of Portland will pay $2.3 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed after Police Officer Dane Reister wounded William Kyle Monroe in 2011 when he mistakenly fired lethal rounds at him from a beanbag shotgun.
The proposed settlement was reached after city attorneys and Monroe’s lawyer met Monday in a mediation session with U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken.
It must still go before the City Council for approval. If accepted, it would mark the city’s largest individual settlement in its history.
“Honestly, I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s not an unfair settlement,” Thane Tienson, Monroe’s lawyer, said Tuesday.
Tienson said the money will help pay for Monroe’s ongoing medical costs and lost wages.
Reister’s gunshots fractured Monroe’s pelvis and punctured his bladder, abdomen and colon. The fourth shot, fired from less than 15 feet away, left a “softball-size hole in his left leg” and severed the sciatic nerve, according to Monroe’s suit.
Monroe, who was 20 at the time and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, is permanently disabled and narrowly escaped bleeding to death only because OHSU Hospital was near the shooting scene, his lawyer said.
The day after the shooting, then-Mayor Sam Adams called the shooting “a tragic mistake.”
Mayor Charlie Hales said Tuesday he was aware that a proposed settlement had been reached.
Chief Mike Reese released a statement: “The Police Bureau continues to hope for Mr. Monroe’s full recovery and the Bureau recognizes that this incident has been extremely difficult for everyone involved.”
Though Tienson said he believed a higher settlement could be justified given Monroe’s permanently disabling injuries, he added, “There’s value in settling a case early on. Mr. Monroe wanted to put this case behind him and get on with his life, and that’s a decision I respect.”
Tienson said he also hopes the large settlement spurs substantial change within the Police Bureau — “not only in training, but in the way the Police Bureau responds to claims of people who are in emotional crisis. The record speaks for itself.
“We’d like to think another multimillion-dollar settlement involving claims of excessive force by Portland police against someone who has a mental illness will provide further pressure on the city” to get reforms underway stemming from a recent U.S. Department of Justice investigation of Portland police, he said.
The investigation found that Portland police engage in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness.
Monroe’s federal lawsuit accused Reister, Police Chief Mike Reese and the city of violating Monroe’s civil rights through false arrest, assault and negligence.
The suit alleged that the police chief could have prevented such a mistake by prohibiting officers from mixing lethal ammunition with less-lethal munitions in their duty bags, as Reister did. Further, the suit contended that the bureau had failed to adequately discipline officers who are “pre-disposed” to using excessive force.
“Defendant Reister’s conduct was so extreme that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency, and it constituted conduct that a reasonable person would regard as intolerable in a civilized community,” Tienson wrote in the suit.
According to the suit, Monroe, who lives with his father in Hillsboro, had intended to drive to Bremerton, Wash., to visit his mother the day before the shooting, but became disoriented and was suffering from a paranoid mania.
He ended up in Lair Hill Park the next morning, where children from a day camp were playing. Monroe pulled discarded flowers out of a park garbage bin and tossed them near the children. Camp supervisors told Monroe to leave the park. Police received two 9-1-1 calls from camp officials. The camp director said in the second call that Monroe may have a pocket knife up his sleeve.
Reister responded to the call. He spotted Monroe on Southwest Naito Parkway, commanded him to stop and get down on his knees with his hands behind his head. Reister asked Monroe if he had any weapons, and Monroe emptied his pockets, discarding his miniature Swiss army knife, the suit says. Monroe put his hands behind his head, but asked why he should get on his knees. Reister grabbed his beanbag shotgun from his car, and two more officers arrived.
Monroe assured police he hadn’t done anything wrong as he backed away and then began running and yelled for help. Without warning, the suit says, Reister fired five times, emptying his clip. The fifth round jammed because of Reister’s “excessively rapid firing,” the suit says.
Four months after the shooting, the police chief issued a new policy, requiring that beanbag ammunition be stored only in a carrier attached to the side or stock of the orange-painted, 12-gauge beanbag shotguns.
Five years earlier, the suit noted, Reister mistakenly fired a loaded riot-suppression launcher during training, injuring an officer posing as a protester with a smoke round.
The suit had called for Reister to lose his job. That’s not part of the proposed settlement, Tienson said.
“That’s a decision the city has yet to decide,” he said. “I think my client would like to see that happen.”
Nearly two years after the shooting, Reister has faced no discipline and remains on paid administrative leave.
He also faces pending criminal charges. Reister has pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with third- and fourth-degree assault. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office added a negligent wounding charge.
The indictment marked the first time in the county’s history that a grand jury brought criminal charges against a Portland officer for force used on duty.
Judge Aiken has brokered other large settlements between plaintiffs and the city of Portland.
She helped broker a $1.2 million settlement in February 2012 between the city and the family of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed African American man shot in the back in 2010 during a police standoff. She also helped in the mediation that led to the $1.6 million settlement between the city and family of James P. Chasse Jr. in May 2010, the largest settlement then in the city’s history.
The police union is in court-ordered mediation with the City of Portland and the Department of Justice, after challenging their settlement agreement on police reforms.
Meanwhile Police Chief Mike Reese is pushing ahead with hiring for the new Behavioral Health Unit. But critics say Reese’s hiring choices are eroding community confidence.
Bret Burton Hired to Mobile Crisis Unit
Portland Police Chief Mike Reese defended the bureau when the Department of Justice report was released
Reese recently appointed Bret Burton, for example, as Portland Police Bureau’s first, and for months the only, Mobile Crisis Unit officer. Burton is the former sheriff’s deputy who used his Taser on James Chasse during the September 2006 confrontation that ended with Chasse’s death in police custody.
“We were very surprised that Burton was selected of all the officers taking courses,” says Jason Renaud, co-founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland. The mental health association position is that officers who are responsible in the death of a citizen should not remain in the police force, Renaud said, and the Chasse case raised troubling issues about the officers actions.
“So we asked for his resignation and we asked the city not to hire him.”
Burton was one of three law enforcement officers at the scene of Chasse’s arrest. His employer at the time, Multnomah County, paid $925,000 to Chasse’s family to settle a civil suit. The City of Portland, who employed the other two men, Officer Christopher Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice, paid out $1.6 million to settle the civil suit. An ambulance company, American Medical Response, paid $600,000.
Renaud, who knew Chasse and produced the documentary Alien Boy about his life and death, says the association asked for all three officers to be fired. But the city went on to hire Burton from the county. Last year he appeared in an Australian video, apparently as a PPB spokesperson on Taser use.
Portland Police Bureau spokesman Pete Simpson, said the Behavioral Health Unit will be supervised by a sergeant and a lieutenant, under the command of Capt. Sara Westbrook.
The other two teams are: the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team and the Service Coordination Team. One full-time officer has been assigned to the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team as the coordinator and another full-time officer has been assigned to the Service Coordination Team as its coordinator.
Burton was the first to be hired to the Mobile Crisis Unit. Asked whether Burton was considered for a coordinator position, Simpson said he was not, adding that because the mobile crisis unit has just three officers, it doesn’t need a separate coordinator.
“The ECIT has 50 detached officers so a coordinator is needed,” he notes. “Same with SCU, although I don’t have the list of officers, but it’s more than a dozen.”
Renaud says Burton could have chosen the job because his experiences in the Chasse case taught him an important lesson.
“Perhaps he is the person who is most affected by this work and has somehow been transformed. Perhaps he is more conscious of people with mental illness,” Renaud said. “The other thing we will benefit from is that he will spend a lot of time working with professional psychotherapists. The psychotherapists with Project Respond will spend a lot more time talking to Burton, their co-worker, than they will talking to people with mental illness.”
Reese’s Hiring Decisions and Community Relations
Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, said Reese’s track record suggests he doesn’t consider the impact of his personnel decisions on police community relations.
“It’s surprising on the one hand, but it fits the pattern,” he says of Burton’s appointment. “He appointed Capt. [Mark] Kruger, known for dressing up like a Nazi and for violence during protests, to teach tactical teams how to respond in crisis situations.”
Handelman also points to the chief’s decision to appoint Todd Wyatt, who inappropriately touched women colleagues, to supervise sexual assault and human trafficking investigators. Wyatt also violated other use of force and professional conduct rules, according to The Oregonian, and the police review board voted to fire him.
“It just keeps chipping away at community confidence in the police,” Handelman said. “They talk about community policing all the time, but they never think about how the community might react.”
Handelman said a pattern was set early on when Reese appointed Mike Kuykendall, a friend who played in a band with him, to a top administrative position. In doing so he lost the opportunity to hire someone who would expand community confidence in his leadership, Handelman says.
Kuykendall resigned in February in a text message scandal, again involving Kruger. At the same time he also resigned from the board of the Police Activities League, which had just announced it had run out of money and would have to close its youth centers. OSHA recently fined the organization for lax health and safety at the East Portland Youth Center, including failing to deal with asbestos flooring in the girls and staff restrooms.
Seven Years After James Chasse’s Death
The other two officers who were involved in James Chasse’s arrest and subsequent death also are still in law enforcement.
In July 2012, an arbitrator overturned the city’s disciplinary action against both men. They had been given 80-hour suspensions without pay.
Sgt. Kyle Nice was returned to street patrol in East precinct in September 2012. Previously he had been placed in a desk job after an April 2010 road rage incident, where he pulled his weapon and flipped off a motorist.
Officer Chris Humphreys was involved in another controversy in 2009, when he shot a 12-year-old girl in the thigh with a beanbag gun at close range. She was struggling with another officer after being arrested for being on the MAX train. She had been barred from TriMet.
Five Hundred PPB officers staged a demonstration wearing tee-shirts that read, “I am Chris Humphreys.” Humphreys collected disability for job-related stress until November 2010 when he was medically laid off. He then ran for Sheriff in Wheeler County Oregon. His only opposition was a write-in candidate and he was elected in November 2012.
The Department of Justice report found Portland Police had a “pattern and practice” of violating the civil rights of people with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness. It also raised questions about police relationships with communities of color.
The agreement is meant to resolve the Department of Justice finding, by changing policy on use of force and changing how police deal with people in crisis.
But Portland Police Association challenged the reform efforts, saying many provisions are subject to contract negotiations. Now the police union is in court-ordered mediation with the city and the DOJ. The union will have the right to appeal if it disagrees with the outcome. The Albina Ministerial Alliance has a seat at the table, but no power to challenge or appeal the decision.
Judge Michael Simon, who happens to be married to Sen. Suzanne Bonamici, has ordered everyone involved to keep a strict silence about the negotiations.
Jo Ann Hardesty, who represents the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform in the mediations, says the tradeoff is worth it.
“It’s so important for the community to have a seat at this table,” she says. “The Department of Justice believes it represents the people, but they don’t have the deep history of the injustices that go way back in this community.”
The mediation is supposed to be coming to a close with the parties ready to report back to Judge Simon on April 24.
President Obama recently nominated Thomas Perez the attorney who led the investigation for the federal Office of Civil Rights, for Secretary of Labor. His nomination is facing strong opposition, however, from Republicans.
Portland police officer involved in James Chasse case now part of mental health unit
One of the officers who had contact with James P. Chasse Jr. before he died in police custody in 2006 is now part of the Portland Police Bureau’s expanded mobile crisis unit.
Chasse, 42, suffered from schizophrenia and died from blunt force trauma to the chest on Sept. 17, 2006, after officers chased him and knocked him to the ground in the Pearl District. Officer Bret Burton, then a Multnomah County deputy, had used a stun gun on Chasse.
Paramedics came to the scene, but didn’t take Chasse to the hospital. Instead, police drove him to jail, but jail staff refused to book him. Police then drove him in a police cruiser to the hospital, and he died on the way.
Chasse’s death resulted in $3.1 million in settlements by the city of Portland, Multnomah County and American Medical Response to Chasse’s family. It also prompted the Police Bureau in 2007 to require all officers be trained in crisis intervention.
Burton, who was subsequently hired as a Portland officer, now is one of three officers who are paired with Project Respond mental health workers. They connect mentally ill people who have frequent contact with police to local agencies for treatment and help. He doesn’t respond to emergency calls for service.
Portland police expanded the unit from one officer to three this year as part of the pending city settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, which found that Portland police engage in a pattern of excessive force against people suffering from mental illness.
Portland police and Burton didn’t immediately return calls for comment Thursday.
“It’s definitely something that’s changed my life and changed the way we do police work here in the city,” he said.
Jason Renaud, co-founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland, in the past called for the officers involved in the Chasse case to be fired or resign. He said Thursday he still believes they should have lost their jobs, but he admires Burton.
“I think it’s impressive that he wouldn’t run away from it and instead is using his experience to do more to get involved,” said Renaud, who produced a documentary on Chasse. “We can’t always get what we want. But some times, we find that some things can change.”