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).
As parents of a 7- and an 8-year-old, my wife Cheryl Strayed and I often discuss what we hope to impart to our children.
At the top of that list is resilience, which I define not only as the ability to persevere despite obstacles but also as the capacity to extend some key element of your essential being beyond the vicissitudes and surfaces of day-to-day life.
James Chasse was resilient, and the opportunity to share that and other of his defining characteristics with a large audience was one of the main reasons for making the documentary “Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse.”
Many of you know Chasse’s name through the headline “Man with schizophrenia dies in police custody.” Perhaps you followed the story through the grand jury and civil lawsuit phases, and perhaps you wondered how he received 26 fractures to 16 ribs.
The first task of the film was to delve into James’ life, adding necessary dimension, depth and nuance to a person that — through no fault of his own — was now being defined by how he died. In making “Alien Boy,” I wanted to define James by how he lived.
One of the brightest parts of James’ life was his participation in Portland’s early punk music scene. Embraced by fellow outsiders and artists, he flourished, publishing his fanzine The Oregon Organizm, writing and recording songs as lead singer of The Combos, and playing muse to Greg Sage of the Wipers and Kim Kincaid of the Neo Boys, inspiring the songs “Alien Boy” and “Nothing to Fear.”
How many of us can say one song was written about us? James had two.
A measured account
The onset of schizophrenia made it nearly impossible for James to maintain those relationships, though he valiantly tried, writing a heartbreakingly brave note to an old friend from his punk days, “I thought I’d try to explain who I am….”
As so often happens with people suffering from severe and persistent mental illness, his behavior put people off and his interactions became confined to family members, mental health professionals and the rare person willing to endure the discomfort of reaching across the chasm of schizophrenia. One such brave, kind soul was Russell Sacco, a retired physician who attended the same church as James.
“He’s just a person and I’m just a person, so I went up and talked to him,” Dr. Sacco explains.
After weeks of no response, one day James replied “hello” to Dr. Sacco and a dialogue began. If only the police officers had approached James in a similar spirit that fateful day — or, absent that, ignored him altogether and not have initiated a foot pursuit that the Portland Police Bureau’s Training Division would later rule should never have happened.
The other task of the film was to take a clear-eyed, calm, measured account of how and why James Chasse died. Using eyewitness accounts, audiotape of the police investigation, police evidence photos, official court documents, footage from jail surveillance cameras, interviews of Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson, recent Portland Mayor Sam Adams, then-Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler, journalists Matt Davis and Anna Griffin, attorney Tom Steenson and James’ mother and father, and videotaped depositions from Officer Christopher Humphreys, Sgt. Kyle Nice and Deputy Bret Burton, the film presents a relentless, enraging cascade of actions, decisions, omissions and lies on the part of police that led to James Chasse’s death.
Then-Mayor Tom Potter and then-Police Chief Rosie Sizer attempted to divert attention from the actions of Humphreys, Nice and Burton by framing what happened to James Chasse as a failure of the mental health system.
Nothing could be further from the truth. James was a success story, living independently and managing things well. He went off his meds, which is part of the disease of mental illness, but his case manager was aware of this and asked Project Respond to do a welfare visit accompanied by a police officer.
The welfare visit revealed that James was in a bad way, and Project Respond’s Ela Howard asked Officer Worthington to file a report flagging James as mentally ill so that if the police ever encountered him again, they would know to call Project Respond rather than try to deal with James by themselves.
Officer Worthington didn’t file the report. This was on Sept. 15, 2006, two days before James died. The mental health system is not to blame for James’s tragic death.
Last Friday evening, at the Northwest Children’s Theater on Northwest 18th and Everett, a mere 100 feet from where Officer Humphreys first encountered James, we had a party after “Alien Boy” premiered at Cinema 21 as part of the Portland International Film Festival.
I had the privilege of introducing Mayor Charlie Hales to James Chasse Sr. What followed was an open conversation between a still grieving father and a new mayor about what steps the city can take to guard against this kind of tragedy happening again.
I’m in Missoula, Mont., where the film just played in the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. The audience was enraged — may that rage fuel positive change.
But rage will only get us so far. Let Russell Sacco’s simple, wise words guide us: “He’s just a person, and I’m just a person….”
In that vein, we have to ask about the toll all this has taken on the officers involved. Have they received the necessary mental health help such a traumatic experience requires? How has this experience changed them? What have they learned? Are they still capable of doing their jobs? Do we, the public, still have confidence in them?
Portland resident Brian Lindstrom’s third feature-length documentary, “Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse,” will play Sunday through March 7 at Cinema 21 inPortland.
Tom Steenson, a Portland civil rights attorney, told the Portland City Council it should not sign an agreement between the city and the Department of Justice until some changes are made.
Civil rights attorney Tom Steenson, who represented the families of James P. Chasse Jr. and Aaron Campbell in federal lawsuits against the city, said he could not understand why several recommended changes to police practices were rejected. He said the agreement lacks several “best practices” governing police training and accountability.
“Don’t approve the agreement as it stands,” Steenson told the council. “I think that you need to step back and look at this and give much more consideration.”
The Rev. T. Allen Bethel, of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, said the lack of real community involvement has continued to erode the community’s trust that the reforms in the agreement will be put in place.
Bethel and others urged an independent court-appointed monitor to be assigned to oversee the changes.
“This agreement needs to be relooked at, renegotiated and needs to come back with teeth,” Bethel said.
The agreement was announced last Friday, more than a month after the U.S. Department of Justice found the Police Bureau engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness. The agreement contains changes to bureau policies on use of force, its training of officers, retention of records, and community oversight.
Becky Straus, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said the council has an opportunity “to achieve lasting change” in the Police Bureau.
But she said she worries that there’s not enough oversight.
“We continue to be concerned that there is not enough accountability to ensure that what is mandated will ever be actualized,” the ACLU’s written testimony says. “We are disappointed that the Agreement stops short of this necessary safeguard.”
Several members of the city’s Human Rights Commission decried the agreement’s dismantling of the Community Police Relations Committee, which would be replaced by a 15-voting member Community Oversight Board to ensure the DOJ reforms are put in place.
Kyle Busse, chair-elect of the Human Rights Commission, said he’s concerned that the important work of improving race relations by the Community Police Relations Committees would be jeopardized.
“It was a surprise to learn they’d be uprooted and be put in a position they knew nothing about,” Busse said.
ACLU representatives, the League of Women Voters and Portland Copwatch argue the agreement didn’t go far enough in improving the existing police accountability system.
“The Department of Justice letter of findings called Portland’s accountability system ‘self defeating.’ Unfortunately, the remedies outlined in the agreement do little to address many of the long-standing community concerns related to the system as it currently operates,” wrote Mary McWilliams, league president, and Debbie Aiona, the league’s action committee chair, in a letter to the mayor and commissioners.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon also had recommended that the city abandon the current police oversight system involving the Independent Police Review Division and replace it with a “strong, transparent, and integrated civilian oversight body.”
Angela Kimball, a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, urged the Police Bureau to hire a national consultant, such as retired Memphis police Major Sam Cochran, to help the bureau recreate a specialized Crisis Intervention Team of officers that work closely with mental health providers and consumers.
Kimball urged the city commissioners to show true leadership to bring about the reforms.
“Real reform can’t be decreed by a legal document,” Kimball told the council, “but only by your sustained commitment and leadership to bring the culture of the Police Bureau in line with city mores.”
James Kahan, a volunteer member of of the bureau’s Crisis Intervention Team advisory council, said he was struck by many of the agreement’s demands that the bureau bring back a voluntary group of specialized officers to respond to mental health crisis calls and reconnect with community providers and mental health consumers.
“We’ve been making them (recommendations) for years and we’ve been ignored,” Kahan said.
Busse, of the Human Rights Commission, said the council should not rush into the agreement.
“Take the time to do it right,” he said.
The mayor estimated that the annual cost of the reforms will be $5.4 million – 60 percent of that or $3.5 million is from an increase of 32 staff positions , and 40 percent represents the ongoing funding of the city’s Service Coordination Team, which connects frequent offenders with housing and treatment.
If the council wants to make any changes to the settlement agreement, city officials would have to have the buy-in of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Once the three-hour hearing came to a close, the mayor said the City Council would hold another hearing next Thursday afternoon on potential amendments to the Justice Department agreement but would not vote next week.
“The community doesn’t need people like you on the police force who act and then think later,” Davis wrote in prepared comments. “You are a liability… Putting you back on the streets is a big mistake.”
Davis and her husband, John Davis, thanked Mayor Sam Adams for continuing to fight Frashour’s reinstatement.
“I thank Mayor Adams and the community for drawing the line and taking a stand for what is morally right,” Marva Davis’ statement said.
She criticized Frashour for not showing remorse to her family.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams on Monday said he’ll urge the City Council to appeal the state Employment Relations Board ruling that ordered the city to bring back Frashour within 30 days, with back pay, benefits and 9 percent interest.
In a decision released Monday, the board unanimously ruled that the city violated the Public Collective Bargaining Act by refusing to follow an arbitrator’s award in March that ordered Frashour be returned to his job.
The board did not issue the city a civil penalty, but said the city must post a public notice in the Police Bureau and other city offices that states the city in a “calculated” action violated state law.
On Jan. 29, 2010, Frashour shot Campbell in the back with an AR-15 rifle, after Campbell had been struck with multiple beanbag-shotgun rounds shortly after emerging from a Northeast Portland apartment. Frashour said he thought Campbell was reaching for a gun.
Outside City Hall Tuesday, John Davis, Campbell’s stepdad, said, “I’m not against policing at all. I’m just against unjust policing.”
Aaron Campbell’s mother, Marva Davis
Steenson called the Portland police oversight system broken — “at the top with police leadership and at the bottom, with police and the union.”
The mayor and Police Chief Mike Reese fired Frashour on Nov. 8, 2010. But on March 30, Arbitrator Jane Wilkinson ordered the city to reinstate Frashour, saying a reasonable officer could have concluded that Campbell “made motions that appeared to look like he was reaching for a gun.”
Portland police training instructors testified before the arbitrator that Frashour acted as trained – contrary to testimony from Chief Mike Reese that Frashour violated the bureau’s use of force policy and training.
Steenson said either the trainers are lying about the training, and/or the police leadership knew exactly what the training is and ignored it, “or they’re so incompetent and didn’t know what the trainers were doing.”
Steenson called on the city to remove sergeants from the same union as the rank-and-file officers they supervise. He also called for strong police leadership.
“Repeatedly what you find is a police chief unwilling to take the police union on,” Steenson said.
In April. Campbell’s family, joined by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, had demonstrated outside City Hall to protest the arbitrator’s ruling.
The mayor refused to follow the arbitrator’s ruling – a first involving an officer terminated for use of force. The police union filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint on Frashour’s behalf.
Attorney Tom Steenson reads Marva Davis’ prepared statement.
The arbitrator in the Frashour case, the state board noted, concluded there was an “objectively reasonable basis” for Frashour to believe that Campbell posed an “immediate risk of serious injury or death to others.” The arbitrator found the city did not prove Frashour violated the police bureau’s use of force policies.
The Albina Minsterial Alliance, made up of 125 Portland-area churches, argued in a legal brief submitted to the board that Oregon’s Employment Relations Board needs to consider “the rights of people in communities affected by excessive police use of force.”
The alliance’s position, which mimicked the city’s argument against reinstating Frashour, said it represents “the interests of communities disproportionately impacted by police use of force in the City of Portland,” including African American communities, people with mental health disabilities and other minority groups.
The Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, pastor of Ainsworth United Church of Christ, vowed that the Albina Ministerial Alliance will continue to fight Frashour’s ordered return to the police force.
“He was and is a danger to the community,” Lopez said, outside City Hall Tuesday. “We will not stop!”
Adams Monday pledged to make the Frashour discipline a “test case,” frustrated by repeated arbitration rulings that have overturned the city’s discipline of police. He said he’ll urge the City Council to hold a hearing within 30 days to vote whether to challenge the board’s ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Portland Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, earlier Tuesday blasted the mayor, saying his defiance of the order to reinstate Frashour reflects a “personal vendetta.”
“Mayor Adams has turned this into a personal vendetta and is using the hard-earned dollars of tax-paying Portlanders as his personal checkbook to extend this politically motivated witch hunt at the expense of the integrity of a process that protects the very core of collective bargaining,” Turner said. “He’s showing the questionable integrity that he’s had all during his tenure.”
Disturbed by Turner’s harsh remarks, Commissioner Randy Leonard on Tuesday decided to throw his support behind the mayor’s court challenge of the state board’s order on Frashour.
Leonard wrote a response to Turner’s statements: “Really, Mr Turner? How do you characterize the integrity of your members’ actions that led to a complete breakdown of all the training the Portland Police Bureau provides officers to avoid tragedies such as the indefensible killing of Aaron Campbell? And I don’t mean just the lack of integrity by the officer that pulled the trigger that killed Mr. Campbell.”
Leonard said he doesn’t expect the court challenge to be successful, however.
“No, I don’t think we have a great chance of winning…but we do have a chance,” Leonard wrote on his blog. “Consequently, I will support Mayor Adams’ request to appeal the Employment Relations Board decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals. ”
Good morning. It is wonderful to be back here in Portland. I am honored to join Mayor Adams, Chief Reese, and my colleague U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall to report on the results of our investigation of the Portland Police Bureau, and to discuss the road ahead. Today is an important and exciting day for the people of Portland, and for the dedicated men and women of the Portland Police Bureau.
I would like to thank Mayor Adams and Chief Reese for their cooperation throughout this investigation. When we announced our investigation, Chief Reese observed that this is a “unique opportunity to be at the forefront of best practices.” You correctly noted that Portland is not the only city that is addressing the difficult issue of providing police services to people with mental illness. Mayor, you noted at our announcement that you were “humbled in the knowledge that we don’t have it all figured out.” Both the Mayor and the Chief expressed an understandable and well-founded pride in your police department, and pledged their complete cooperation. They delivered on that pledge, were consistently responsive to our document requests, maintained an open door and open file policy throughout our site visits, and have been very receptive to our feedback. I would also like to thank the officers of the Portland Police Bureau for their cooperation and feedback. Our job is to make your job safer and more rewarding. Finally, we are very grateful to the community. We held a town hall meeting, conducted scores of interviews, and listened and learned from so many community members. Your perspective was and continues to be critical, and we will continue to seek out your views.
As a result of the cooperation we received throughout the investigation, we made remarkable progress in record time. As U.S. Attorney Marshall pointed out, we have completed our review; we have diagnosed the problem; identified its root causes; and have reached a preliminary agreement with the city of Portland and PPB, which will remedy the problems and enhance both officer and public safety, while allowing PPB to be at the forefront of best practices.
As U.S. Attorney Marshall outlined, for more than a year, the Justice Department has been conducting an in-depth investigation of PPB’s use of force, with a particular focus on its interactions with people with mental illness or in mental health crisis. Our review was prompted in large part by the high number of officer involved shootings of people with mental illness. The investigation was driven by a single goal: to ensure that Portland is served by an effective, accountable police bureau that controls crime, respects the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it protects.
Our investigation was exhaustive and was conducted by department attorneys, investigators and subject matter experts, including police practices experts and a psychiatrist who specializes in working with law enforcement to develop models for effective interaction with people with mental illness. We conducted a thorough review of use of force by PPB officers, which included reviewing thousands of pages of documents, and conducting extensive outreach to the community, through hundreds of interviews with community members, mental health service providers, city officials, PPB officers, supervisors and command staff. We looked at a range of police interactions, including encounters with people who have mental illness or were perceived to have mental illness. Let me focus on the problem we identified. Based on our review, we have concluded that, while most uses of force were lawful, there is reasonable cause to believe that PPB is engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force against people with mental illness, or those perceived to have mental illness. We found that encounters between PPB officers and persons living with mental illness too frequently result in a use of force, or in a higher level of force than necessary. We further found that, when dealing with people with mental illness, PPB officers use electronic control weapons, or tasers, in circumstances where the use of tasers was not justified, or deploy them more times than necessary. Finally, in situations where PPB officers arrest people with mental illness for low level offenses, we found that there is a pattern or practice of using more force than necessary in these circumstances.
It is important to reiterate that the challenges we identified here are not unique to Portland. Police work has transformed dramatically in recent years. One Portland officer described how years ago, encounters with people who have mental illness were few and far between. Today, it is a daily occurrence for most officers, and often occurs more than once per day. Communities across the United States are wrestling with how to deliver police services to people with mental illness. We have seen and are working on these issues in other communities and believe that the work we do here in Portland will serve as an important guidepost for communities facing similar challenges.
Let me next turn to root causes. We conclude that deficiencies in policy, training and supervision contribute to the problems we identified. These underlying deficiencies have existed for many years, and precede the tenure of Mayor Adams and Chief Reese. While they did not create the problems, they own the problems, and they have accepted ownership of both the problems and the solutions. They wasted no time in beginning the reform process. A number of critical reforms are already in place. When we presented our findings to them, we immediately pivoted to brainstorming and problem solving, even though they did not agree with everything we found.
As a result, we have reached a preliminary agreement with the city and PPB about the path forward. We have developed a blueprint for sustainable change that will enhance public safety and officer safety, ensure constitutional policing, and enhance public confidence in PPB. The blueprint, which we are in the process of memorializing into a binding, court enforceable agreement, will require PPB to do the following:
Develop state of the art policies and protocols for interacting with people who have mental illness or are perceived to have mental illness;
Dramatically expand its capacity to provide services to people with mental illness by expanding its mobile crisis unit, establish a mental health desk at the Bureau of Emergency Services so that 911 calls are properly funneled to the appropriate response team, and assist in leading efforts to increase community mental health treatment options, such as 24 hour walk-in centers and other facilities that expand options for police officers seeking to assist a person who is experiencing a mental health crisis;
Revamp and expand training related to crisis intervention and use of force;
Enhance usage of its early warning system to better identify officers whose actions may require review;
Ensure that effective supervisory and accountability systems are in place to review use of force; and
Create a mechanism for ensuring that community stakeholders and front-line officers have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on critical reforms.
Before we finalize any agreement, we want to go back to the community and hear from them again, and hear from other key stakeholders, including police officers. To all who have weighed in during this process, I recognize that this is your agreement; this is your department; this is your community, and we want to ensure that your voice is heard.
I am very excited about our blueprint, and look forward to hearing feedback from key stakeholders in the days ahead. Our goal is to complete our work in the next month.
I am acutely mindful of the fact that this agreement alone will not solve the problem in its entirety. Our findings take place against the backdrop of a statewide mental health infrastructure that has a number of key deficiencies. The absence of a comprehensive, community-based mental health infrastructure means that front line officers confronting a person experiencing a mental health crisis frequently have only two options: take the person to jail or the emergency room. In communities across the country, the largest mental health facility is the jail. That isn’t right. People in mental health crisis are sick, and generally don’t belong in jail. The largest mental health facility in a state or county shouldn’t be the jail. Officers must have additional options, and people in crisis must have additional options. We have worked successfully with other states, such as Delaware, to build a comprehensive community based mental health infrastructure. As the United States Attorney mentioned, we are working here in Oregon with state officials in a constructive, collaborative fashion on the development and implementation of a holistic, community based mental health infrastructure that, when implemented, will enhance both officer and public safety.
Our formal findings in this case are focused on PPB’s interactions with people who have mental illness. While the bulk of our investigation focused on this area, it was not limited to this area. A number of additional concerns were brought to our attention. While we did not make any formal findings regarding these additional concerns, it is impossible to ignore the tensions that exist between PPB and certain communities of color in Portland. Last year, Mayor Adams noted that one reason he welcomed our presence was his hope that this would lead to improved relations between PPB and Portland’s communities of color. We heard consistent and serious concerns from across the city that members this community, particularly the African American community, believe that they are subjected to bias stops and force based on their race. Although these tensions predate Chief Reese’s tenure, they persist to this day.
Our agreement with the city will begin to address these important issues in two ways. First, the new policies, procedures, training and accountability surrounding force will help ensure that unnecessary and unreasonable force is eliminated. Second, a community body will be created to monitor the agreement, collect feedback from the community and provide recommendations to PPB and the department. The mechanism for community engagement and input that we are creating as part of this resolution will not be limited to mental health issues. Rather, it is deliberately designed to create an opportunity for dialogue and action between PPB and communities of color.
Considerable work lies ahead. Change is not easy. Change requires time, persistence, partnership, a sound plan, resources, effective leadership and sustained community engagement. All the ingredients are here in Portland. We have made great progress. I am very confident that we will achieve Chief Reese’s goal of placing PPB at the forefront of best practices. Portland is a great community, and when these improvements are fully in place, it will be an even greater community.
The Department of Justice Reviews The Portland Police Bureau
September 13, 2012
When the Department of Justice announced a federal investigation into our officers’ use of force last year, I said that I welcomed the inquiry and noted that we had even asked for a best practices evaluation. What I said then holds true today: “We are humble in the knowledge that we don’t have it all figured out.”
In its year-long investigation, the Department of Justice has committed to rooting out the issues this City and its Police Bureau face, especially in dealing with a growing population facing mental health crises. I am grateful for the expertise brought to bear in its evaluation.
The Oregonian, September 14, 2012
Mayor Sam Adams’ Statement 9/13/12
Two years ago, community leaders, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman and I asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to review the Portland Police Bureau for bias, regardless of whether or not it is intentional, unconscious or institutional. Anything.
During this federal investigation, we opened our books, our doors and our minds.
Yesterday, I received a 42-page letter detailing the findings of their 14-month investigation.
It includes a critique of our financially-starved community-based mental health system. It states, “Our findings take place against a backdrop of a mental health infrastructure that has a number of key deficiencies…” with, “…insufficient options for adequate community based mental health services.”
Given our anemic community-based mental health system, I appreciate that the findings note that the already tough job of our police officers has gotten even tougher, with situations that “…often shifts to law enforcement agencies the burden of being first responders to individuals in mental health crisis.”
In my last budget, this local mental health system crisis was a key reason I did not cut sworn police or firefighter positions. My thanks to the hardworking officers of the Portland Police Bureau for working in a tough situation.
I am pleased that the findings state that, “…most uses of force we reviewed were constitutional…” that “…many of the systemic deficiencies discussed in this letter originated prior to the current PPB administration, which has been aggressive in pursuing reform.” I agree, we have a great improvement-minded Chief of Police in Mike Reese.
But the findings are blunt in its assessment that we get a failing grade dealing with the growing number of Portlanders who face serious mental illness and addiction. We occasionally use, “…unnecessary or unreasonable force during interactions with people who have or are perceived to have mental illness.”
Without defensiveness or finger pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique and the urgent need for change. We all need to take our portion of the responsibility to improve the situation.
We will improve and we will begin to do it quickly.
Some needed changes are already underway. Like our new Police Training Center and Citizen Advisory Council. Like the diverse classes of new police recruits, drug testing and officer evaluations. I have agreed in concept to others changes in the letter of agreement:
1 Use of Force: The City is committed to revise its use of force policies to ensure that officers have necessary guidance when encountering someone with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness. In particular, the City will enhance its policy guidance on the use of Electronic Control Weapons (ECW) and techniques to de-escalate encounters arising from non-criminally related well-being checks and arrests for low level offenses.
The Chief’s initiative to ensure that supervisors respond to the scene of uses of force will be continued and there will be meaningful use of force reviews through the chain of command. Training curricula will be reviewed and adjusted where appropriate to reflect the requirements of the agreement.
2 Crisis Intervention: PPB will continue to provide crisis intervention training to all officers. In addition, it will expand its Mobile Crisis Unit to ensure availability at all times and enhance non-law enforcement capacity to respond to persons in crisis that do not pose a public safety threat. Each Mobile Crisis Unit team will consist of one specially trained officer and one specially trained mental health worker from a local social services agency.
The City agrees to establish a mental health desk at Bureau of Emergency Communications (911) staffed by trained dispatchers to ensure that calls are properly dispatched. BOEC will also direct suicide prevention/mental health calls to the County Crisis Call Center or Lines for Life when on-site PPB response is not appropriate.
The City also agrees to lead efforts to increase community mental health treatment options, such as through the establishment of a 24 hour secure drop-off and walk-in center that will provide police officers more options when assisting persons experiencing a mental health crisis.
3 Early Intervention System: The City has a robust Early Intervention System (EIS) that can track officer specific information as well as unit level and trend data. The City will utilize the system to identify individual officers, supervisors, and units for non-punitive corrective action, and to assess gaps in policy, training, supervision and accountability.
4 Misconduct Investigation: Investigations of allegations of officer misconduct are effective and fair to the officer, complainant and community only if they can be completed in a timely manner. The City agrees to take necessary steps to expedite the investigations of those complaints while preserving the thoroughness and quality of investigations and community participation.
5 Community Engagement and Outreach: Community participation in the oversight of this agreement will be important to its success. A community body will be adopted to assess on an ongoing basis the implementation of this agreement, make recommendations to the parties on additional actions, and advise the Chief and Mayor on strategies to improve community relations. The body will also provide the community with information on the agreement, its implementation and receive comments and concerns. Membership will be representative of the many and diverse communities in Portland, including persons with mental illness, mental health providers, faith communities, minority, ethnic, and other community organizations, and student or youth organizations.
These reforms and new resources will propel the Portland Police Bureau further down the path as it becomes the best local peacekeeping agency in the nation.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas.
Sam Adams – Portland Mayor
Feds: Portland Police Bureau has pattern of excessive force
A U.S. Department of Justice investigation concluded that the Portland Police Bureau engages in “a pattern and practice of excessive use of force,” specifically when dealing with the mentally ill, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall announced Thursday.
The investigation found such use of force violates the U.S. Constitution. Still, she said, the problems revealed in the probe are not unique to Portland and the vast majority of PPB’s use of force falls within constitutional limits.
The investigation was launched in June, 2011 to examine the use of deadly force against all citizens, with a specific look at the mentally ill.
The PPB had a “high number of officer-involved shootings, especially those involving people with mental illness,” Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez explained at a press conference Thursday.
The findings revealed that too often Tasers and other uses of force were used when they were not necessary, Perez said.
He said training deficiencies within the department helped lead to the civil rights issues, and department has wasted no time in beginning the process of improving.
The investigation followed several controversial police shootings, including the death of Aaron Campbell. The January 2010 incident sparked protests and one officer was fired for his use of deadly force.
Another high-profile case was the death of James Chasse, who died in PPB custody after an encounter with police in Old Town in September 2006. Officers said Chasse appeared to be urinating outdoors and when he tried to get away they tackled him. His autopsy revealed that Chasse suffered 26 rib fractures and a punctured lung.
Investigators said they would look for systemic problems within the PPB and would also meet with community leaders outside of the bureau.
A federal investigation has concluded the Portland Police Bureau has a pattern of excessive use of force, and a mental health advocate told KGW the findings should be seen as a positive step.
But he said the agreement between the Dept. of Justice and the bureau lacks the teeth to effect significant change.
Chris O’Connor is a local attorney and board member of the Mental Health Association of Portland.
He agrees with the conclusion that there is a lack of infrastructure to deal with people suffering from mental issues. But he does not agree that the suggested policy changes laid out Thursday–like expanding the city’s mobile crisis team–will reduce excessive use of force cases involving the mentally ill.
“At the end of the day, there’s still no power in the hands of civilians,” O’Connor said, “to remove dangerous officers or discipline in a meaningful way, those who are violating their own policies,”
O’Conner believes local governments need to redirect resources to provide mental health services up front, instead of arresting and incarcerating people suffering from them.
Report: Portland police using excessive force against mentally ill
Portland police officers use excessive force against people with mental illnesses, a U.S. Department of Justice report has found.
The Justice Department presented its findings in a press conference Thursday in downtown Portland. The investigation, which began in June of 2011, determined that the “Portland Police Bureau (PPB) has engaged in an unconstitutional pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness,” according to a press release.
The joint investigation by the Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon focused heavily on the police response to mental health situations. There was “reasonable cause to believe that PPB engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, in certain contexts,” the department said.
Specifically, the report found that officers are often utilizing Tasers for situations that do not justify their use, and furthermore, that they frequently Taser someone more times than necessary. It also found that officers will often use excessive force for what it termed “low level offenses.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez said that over the last three years, Portland police have used deadly force 12 times, 10 of which involved people with mental health issues. Perez cited longstanding training practices as the root cause of the problem.
“These underlying deficiencies have existed for many years, and precede the tenure of Mayor Adams and Chief Reese,” Perez said. “While they have not created the problem, they own the problem, and they have indeed accepted ownership of both the problems and the solutions that lie ahead.”
The Justice Department stated that the 42-page report was presented to Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Portland Police Chief Mike Reese, who were in attendance at Thursday’s press conference. A preliminary agreement has since been reached to make changes to PPB officer training, practices and supervision, the Justice Department said.
Perez disclosed that Portland police cooperated fully with the over one-year long investigation, maintaining what he called an “open door policy.”
In response to the report, Adams issued a statement that read, in part:
“The findings are blunt in its assessment that we get a failing grade dealing with the growing number of Portlanders who face serious mental illness and addiction… Without defensiveness or finger pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique and the urgent need for change.”
The mayor laid out a series of changes that will be implemented, including setting up a mental health desk at the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) and expanding its Mobile Crisis Unit, which handles mental health calls.
Feds: Portland Police Bureau uses ‘excessive force’ with mentally ill
The Department of Justice said Thursday that the Portland Police Bureau violated the U.S. Constitution by engaging in a “pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.”
The Justice Department opened their investigation in June 2011 after an 18 month period where Portland police officers were involved with eight shootings with mentally ill people.
“The findings are very blunt in their assessment that we get a failing grade for dealing with the growing number of Portlanders dealing with mental health issues,” said Mayor Sam Adams.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez said investigators found a pattern of excessive force against both people with mental illnesses or people perceived to have mental issues. That includes using force that wasn’t justified or using more force than was necessary.
“We conclude that this pattern or practice results from deficiencies in policy, training and supervision,” the report said. “We recognize that many of the systemic deficiencies discussed in this letter originated prior to the current PPB administration, which has been aggressive in pursuing reform”
Perez said the Justice Department and the city have reached a preliminary agreement on improvements, such as increased training, expedited investigations and a new oversight committee.
Perez and U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall both sounded optimistic during a news conference about the report when they talked about how the city could fix problems moving forward.
“There is no city in America with a better track record of working together to find solutions to problems such as these,” Marshall said
Perez said Portland’s mayor and police chief cooperate
When looking at how Portland police officers used force, the report singled out stun gun use, saying officers frequently discharged them without justification or used them too many times on a given suspect.
The report also said officers too often used force for relatively minor offenses.
Federal officials also said Oregon’s statewide mental health system has “gaps in services” that often make the police the first responders when people are in a mental health crisis.
“Given the anemic community-based mental health system, I appreciate that the findings note that the already tough job of our police officers has gotten even tougher,” Adams said in an open letter to Portlanders about the findings.
The report found that officers often have the burden of being “first responders to individuals in mental health crisis.”
The police bureau said that between 2001 and 2011, the number of calls each year for people attempteing or threatening suicide has nearly doubled.
“As a law enforcement agency, over the last decade, we have had a dynamic shift from responding to criminal issues to responding to social disorder,” said police chief Mike Reese. “Unfortunately, our system has given officers less options to help people who are afflicted with mental health issues and sometimes concurrent drug and alcohol problems. We have not been adequately prepared for the changing circumstances in our community, related to mental health.”
Mayor Adams, Chief Reese and the federal officials behind the report said on Thursday they were committed to improving how the Portland Police Bureau deals with mentally ill people.
“Fundamentally I think we have to treat people with mental health crisis with compassion and empathy,” Reese said. “We can’t treat them the same way we do as someone that’s committed a bank robbery.”
To help achieve that, city and federal officials laid out a series of preliminary agreement of steps they city and police bureau will take. They include:
Establishing policies that give officers clear guidance when dealing with people who have a mental illness or who are perceived to have a mental illness. Specifically, the city will lay out techniques for officers to de-escalate encouters stemming from non-criminal welfare checks or for low-level offenses.
Having more specially-trained officers and civilians to deal with crisis situations
Having a system to identify gaps in policy, training and supervision
Expediting investigations about possible misconduct while still doing a thorough job
Creating a body to ensure community oversight of reforms
The City of Portland can be held legally responsible if these reforms are not implemented. The city and federal officials have to commit to a final agreement by October 12, 2012.
Daryl Turner, the president of the Portland Police Association, said he disagrees with the Justice Department’s position that Portland officers engaged in a pattern of unreasonable force against the mentally ill.
He also pointed out the report says what officers have been saying for years: Oregon’s mental health infastructure is broken and leaves officers as “frontline responders to the mentally ill.”
“The equation is simple,” Turner said. “We need more officers to help address the increased demands placed on them by a broken mental health infastructure.”
Federal officials have conducted similar reviews in other states. Seattle officials recently reached a deal with the Department of Justice, agreeing to court oversight and independent monitoring of the city’s police department.
The issue of how police deal with the mentally ill has been a topic for years in Portland.
The DOJ announced its Portland investigation in the aftermath of the death of Aaron Campbell, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by officers who responded to a call that he was threatening suicide.
Another prominent case involved the death James Chasse Jr., a mentally ill man who died after he was chased and tackled by officers after he was said to have urinated in public in 2006.
Q&A: DOJ Critical Of Portland Police Over Use Of Force
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that the Portland Police Bureau has “engaged in a pattern and practice of excessive force against people with mental illness.”
OPB’s Kristian Foden-Vencil has been covering this issue and joins us in the studio now. Hello.
Kristian: Hi, Beth
Beth: This sounds pretty serious. Can you give us a little background?
Kristian: Absolutely. Last year, Mayor Sam Adams, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and many others called for a civil rights investigation into the police.
It came after a series high profile cases, like the shooting of Aaron Campbell, who was distraught over the death of his brother; and the death of James Chasse, who was mentally ill and died after being forcibly arrested.
So, the Department of Justice has now finished that investigation and delivered this report.
Beth: Apart from the finding that police use unreasonable force against people with mental illness, what else was in the report?
Kristian: Well it’s extensive and it found officers used stun guns when they weren’t justified – or stunned suspects repeatedly without reasonable cause.
One example in the report, involved a man who was screaming in his apartment. Police got a key and found him naked on the floor shouting for help. When he saw them, he leapt-up and ran towards them. But an officer immediately fired his stun gun. The man fell to the ground and when he attempted to get up, he was stunned three more times. Anyway, it turned out he was diabetic and experiencing a medical emergency.
So the report has several of those kinds of examples and it concludes that the police bureau acted unconstitutionally.
But I want to make it clear that the Justice Department did not to point to problems with individual officers. Instead, the Department found that there are key deficiencies in the mental health infrastructure which leave police as the line of last resort when dealing with the mentally ill. Here’s Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez.
Thomas Perez: “The challenges we identified in Portland, are not unique to Portland. Police work has transformed dramatically in recent years. I remember vividly a Portland police officers who described how, years ago, encounters with people who have mental illness were few and far between. Today that person pointed out, it is a daily occurrence.”
Beth: How have the police bureau and Mayor Sam Adams reacted?
Kristian: Well, the mayor said there’s a need for change and that the police bureau has already begun that change. He was also pleased the report highlighted the problems in Oregon’s mental health system.
Sam Adams: “Without defensiveness or finger pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critic and urgent need for change. We all need to take our portion of the responsibility to change the situation.”
Kristian: The chief of police, Mike Reese, took the report hard. He was sombre, but stressed that his agency has already entered into a preliminary agreement with the Department of Justice to rectify the situation.
He told me afterwards that his officers will be trained to look for the difference between a suspicious criminal and someone who is mentally ill or in crisis.
He said officers will be trained to de-escalate situations and check to see if someone is not taking commands because they’re being belligerent or because they’re having mental health problems.
Finally, he said he’s hoping for new tools, that will provide officers the information they need when they’re in a tricky situation.
Mike Reese: “There’s a lot of information that health care providers have, that we don’t have access too and in a moment of crisis I think we should access to that information if we’re going to provide a better service to that person. Conversely we have a lot of information we would be happy to share with mental health providers so that they know this person is interacting with police frequently. There are things we can do in terms of dispatch protocols. So when dispatchers take that 911 call from a citizen, and they ask, police, fire or medical, we want them to ask mental health.”
Beth: Finally, how are people in the mental health community reacting to this report.
Kristian: Good question. In a nutshell, they’re pleased. Derald Walker of Cascadia Behavioral Health says he hopes this will wind up helping the mentally ill.
Derald Walker:“I think sometimes unfortunately what has to happen in these situations is that the Department of Justice has to step in, render an opinion and almost force our system to provide the funding necessary to really get us up to where we should be.”
Beth: So, what’s next?
Kristian: Well, a series of public meetings will be organized for the next month. That’ll give Portland residents a chance to look at the preliminary agreement — and perhaps add their own recommendations.
Beth: Thank you Kristian.
Kristian: My pleasure.
Justice Dept.: Portland police use excessive force, particularly against mentally ill
The Portland Police Bureau has engaged in a “pattern and practice” of excessive use of force, particularly against mentally ill suspects, the U.S. Justice Department has concluded after a 14-month investigation.
U.S. Attorney for Oregon Amanda Marshall announced the findings at a news conference Thursday.
Marshall said the findings of the report were “grave and serious.”
The report found problems with Portland Police Bureau’s policies, training and supervision.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez pointed to deficiencies in Oregon’s statewide infrastructure for mental health. He added that it was impossible to ignore the “the tensions that exist” between police and communities of color in Portland.
The federal inquiry also found that Portland police have too frequently used Taser stun guns on suspects.
Officials at the news conference said that the Justice Department and the police bureau had reached a preliminary agreement to implement changes that address the problems highlighted in the report.
The agreement calls for community feedback and input on Portland police practices.
Mayor Sam Adams, who also attended the news conference along with Police Chief Mike Reese, said, “Without defensiveness or finger-pointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique.”
He said the police bureau already has begun making changes, citing the creation of a new training center and police training advisory council.
“There is an urgent need for change,” Adams said.
Reese reacted to the report by saying, “It’s disappointing to learn the Department of Justice believes you haven’t got it right.”
But he also said he sees room for bettering the way the bureau works.
“We need to react to people in mental health crisis with empathy and compassion,” Reese said. “We can’t treat them the same way we treat a bank robber.”
He said the bureau needs to forge better relationships with social services partners.
“We all agree this bureau and this community can improve the way we serve Portland’s vulnerable population,” Reese said.
Feds find cause to believe Portland police use excessive force on mentally ill
Federal civil rights investigators have found “reasonable cause” to believe that police in Portland, Oregon, use “unnecessary or unreasonable force” with persons who have mental illness, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The department’s civil rights division and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon issued a letter to Portland Mayor Sam Adams stating that local and federal authorities will “continue our collaborative relationship to craft sustainable remedies.”
In the 42-page letter, federal officials outline remedies that include training and new policies to investigate alleged police misconduct.
Investigators found cause to believe that the Portland Police Bureau engages in “a pattern or practice of using excessive force in encounters involving people with actual or perceived mental illness.”
“We found instances that support a pattern of dangerous uses of force against persons who posed little or no threat and who could not, as a result of their mental illness, comply with officers’ commands,” said the letter, which was signed by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez and U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.
“We also found that PPB employs practices that escalate the use of force where there were clear earlier junctures when the force could have been avoided or minimized.”
One incident in December 2010 involved several officers who used “repeated closed-fist punches and repeated shocking of a subject who was to be placed on a mental health hold,” the letter said.
Adams, in a posting on his web page, vowed that the city and its Police Bureau would improve quickly, and listed a series of changes:
– The city will revise its use-of-force policies — particularly those regarding the use of stun guns — “to ensure that officers have necessary guidance when encountering someone with mental illness or perceived to have mental illness.”
– The police will expand their Mobile Crisis Unit — composed of an officer and a mental health worker — “to ensure availability at all times and enhance non-law enforcement capacity to respond to persons in crisis that do not pose a public safety threat.”
– The city will establish a mental health desk at its 911 calling center to ensure calls are properly dispatched.
– The city will lead efforts to boost community mental health treatment options, such as establishing a 24-hour secure drop-off and walk-in center, “that will provide police officers more options when assisting persons experiencing a mental health crisis.”
– The city will use an early intervention system to identify officers, supervisors and units “for non-punitive corrective action, and to assess gaps in policy, training, supervision and accountability.”
– The city will move to speed investigations of complaints about possible officer misconduct.
– A community body composed of representatives of a variety of groups will assess how well the agreement is being implemented, offer recommendations on additional steps, and advise the police chief and Adams on how to improve community relations.
Justice Department cites five instances to show Portland Police’s pattern of excessive force
The U.S. Department of Justice pointed to five instances from 2010 and 2011, taken from a “larger group of problematic cases” to show the Portland Police Bureau’s pattern of excessive force. These are summarized from Justice Department findings and police reports of the incidents:
May 14, 2010: Police were called to Old Town to investigate reports of a man wandering in the street, spitting on cars and talking to himself. They found Aaron Emanuel Ferguson who “raised his fists to the officer’s face in an effort to show the officer his hospital identification bracelet,” the Justice Department report states. Assistant Sgt. M. Delenikos shoved his fist away and saw Ferguson take “a fighting stance.” He ordered him to back up and then pepper-sprayed Ferguson, who walked backward toward the street. Delenikos warned him to sit or he would use a stun gun on him, but Ferguson didn’t sit down. Delenikos fired his Taser at him four times, claiming that Ferguson “turtled up” and wouldn’t extend his arms to be handcuffed.
Among several issues, the Justice Department report notes that “spitting on passing cars is a low-level offense, if an offense at all and does not warrant this degree of force.” The federal investigators wrote that the supervisor found the use of force to be permissible “and no attempt to even counsel the officer on better tactics was even offered.”
Aug. 15, 2010: Police entered a downtown apartment where they heard the occupant yelling for help and believed him to be suffering a medical emergency. Inside, they saw Anthony Charles Caviness lying naked on the floor. He was unarmed. Police say he leapt up and ran toward them. Officer Joshua Sparks fired his Taser without warning at Caviness’ chest and repeated the cycle three more times. After police handcuffed him, officers learned he was diabetic and suffering a medical emergency.
Federal investigators noted, among other things, that “though the officers may have felt threatened when the individual ran towards them, this threat is mitigated, at least in part, by the presence of three PPB officers facing a naked, unarmed individual.”
Dec. 26, 2010: Two officers were called to help mental health workers who wanted to evaluate Samuel Michael Serrill at an Old Town apartment building. Serrill followed officers’ orders to come out of his room, put his hands on his head and take a seat. Officers verified he had no weapons. After Serrill made incoherent statements, the mental health workers asked police to detain him. Officers grabbed for his arms, but Serrill rolled onto his stomach, hiding his arms under his body, according to the Justice Department report. Officer Chad Phifer warned him to show his arms and then applied his Taser to Serrill’s back. Phifer continued firing it several more times as the man tried to pull away. Phifer then punched Serrill in the ribs as many as six times while Officer Kevin Allen hit the man with a closed first to the back of his neck and shoulders. The officers fired the Taser at him another six times before handcuffing him and taking him to a mental health hospital.
Among other issues, the Justice Department investigators noted “the officers were there to perform a welfare check, not to arrest someone for committing a crime.”
May 15, 2011: Officer Richard Storm went to check on an unarmed man who was standing in the rain in Southeast Portland for more than an hour. They couldn’t communicate because of a language barrier and Storm went to call for help from a Spanish-speaking officer. When Storm stepped out of his car, Fausto Brambila-Naranjo “kicked at” the officer but did not make contact, the Justice Department report states. Storm grabbed his leg and threw him on the ground. As Brambila-Naranjo rolled onto his back, Storm punched him seven to 10 times in the face while the man tried to grab the officer’s hands to stop the blows. After learning Brambila-Naranjo’s name, Storm recalled he had been reported missing by a group home that was concerned about his diabetes, according to his police report. The Justice Department investigators noted that Brambila-Naranjo was acting in self-defense from being hit in the face: “The officer made no attempt to explain in his (report on use of force) why so many punches to the head were necessary to control the subject.”
May 17, 2011: Officers were called to a home where 42-year-old Joseph James Dowless allegedly threatened his mother and hit her in the head. Dowless had a history of mental illness. Officers were told that he had a sword in his room. Police went up to the son’s room after he ignored their orders to come downstairs. They opened his door and ordered him to stand and put his hands on his head. Although Dowless stood up, he wouldn’t put his hands on his head and moved toward the door, the Justice Departmentreport states. Officer Gedemynas Jakubauskas shot him with a beanbag round. Officer Kevin Wolf wrote in his police report that Dowless then refused to interlace his fingers, prompting Wolf to fire his Taser at Dowless’ back. This occurred, the Justice Department report noted, even though Dowless’ hands were clearly visible and officers didn’t see a sword or any other weapon in his possession. “There were less intrusive alternatives available than shooting the suspect with a bean bag gun” and Tasing him, the federal report said.
Portland police promise improved approach to mental illness after scathing Justice Department report
Facing an ultimatum from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Portland Police Bureau Thursday pledged to pair more officers with mental health experts, bring back a specialized team of experienced officers to respond to mental health calls and help reroute certain 911 calls to mental health providers.
These are some of the reforms that the bureau has agreed to make after federal justice officials announced they’ve found Portland police have engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force against people who suffer from or are perceived to suffer from mental illness.
Many of the Justice Department’s recommendations aren’t new. Community activists, mental health advocates, lawyers who have sued the police bureau, and even some Portland officers have urged the bureau to take similar actions for years, without much success.
“On paper all of the recommendations seem to make sense, and actually parrot lots of complaints that the community and people like me have been making for a long time,” said Tom Steenson, the attorney who represented the families of James P. Chasse Jr. and Aaron Campbell, two men who died in police custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez released the highly critical report of Portland police use of force after a 14-month-long federal investigation. Perez stood with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese in a police bureau conference room at the downtown Justice Center.
Marshall called the findings “grave and serious.” Yet Marshall and Perez said they’re confident the city of Portland would embrace the necessary reforms to ensure people from Portland’s most vulnerable population and their families aren’t afraid to turn to police for help.
The bureau and the Justice Department aim to finalize a more-detailed agreement by Oct. 12, after seeking further community input. The agreement will be signed by a federal judge and could be enforced by the court. Federal justice investigators would provide continued oversight.
“While we have indeed identified serious deficiencies” Perez said, “we have reached a preliminary agreement to improve public safety and to ensure the Constitution is respected.”
Perez highlighted the considerable gaps in mental health care in the state and the high number of homeless people in Portland as conditions that have forced police to serve as first-responders to people suffering mental health crises.
Adams acknowledged the city and police “get a failing grade” in dealing with the mentally ill. He estimated the changes may cost “millions of dollars,” and suggested the city will be working with the county, mental health providers and also pursuing federal grant money to help pay for them.
“Without defensiveness or fingerpointing, we all need to absorb the seriousness of this critique and urgent need for change,” Adams said.
The police chief described his initial reaction as one of disappointment.
“It’s disappointing to learn the Department of Justice believes you haven’t got it right.” Reese said. But while defending his officers, he pledged to move ahead with the reforms.
“We all agree this bureau and this community can improve the way we serve Portland’s vulnerable population,” Reese said. He added, “What we’re talking about today is about process and systems, not about police officers…They’re not the ones to blame. I support them.”
The Justice Department found that Portland police:
too frequently use a higher level of force than necessary against people suffering from mental illness;
use Taser stun guns when their use is unnecessary or fire repeated Taser shocks against individuals that are unwarranted; and
use a higher level of force than justified for low-level offenses.
In a 42-page letter to the mayor, the federal officials found officers frequently escalate conflict, rush in to an encounter when they can hold back, and continue to use force even when the need for it has waned.
Portland police have used Taser stun guns without warning, fired multiple Taser stun gun cycles on a single person and failed to re-evaluate the stun gun’s use between cycles. Even when officers’ Taser use clearly violated existing bureau policy, the Taser deployments later “were approved by the chain of command,” the letter said.
“We found that PPB officers often do not adequately consider a person’s mental state before using force and that there is instead a pattern of responding inappropriately to persons in mental health crisis,” Perez’s letter said. “These practices engender fear and distrust in the Portland community, which ultimately impacts PPB’s ability to police effectively.”
The DOJ said that its expert found Portland officers seem to harbor greater fear of people with mental illness than do officers in other cities.
The federal agency found that the excessive force used by officers results from bureau “deficiencies in policy, training and supervision” that have existed for a long time. Supervisors have failed to hold officers accountable for excessive force, and the city’s process for reviewing police use of force complaints takes too long, is “byzantine” and “self-defeating,” the review found.
The city of Portland has paid out about $6 million in the last 20 years to settle lawsuits related to alleged police misconduct.
“While they have not created the problem” Perez said of the current police administration, “they own the problem.”
Justice officials recommended that Portland police immediately stop using the term “mentals,” which the investigators heard used in a police roll call presentation.
In a footnote, the Justice Department cited as callous the Portland police training division’s use of former Officer Chris Humphreys‘ controversial use of a beanbag shotgun against an unarmed 12-year-old girl as an “exemplary” model of how a less-lethal weapon is used. The federal justice officials informed bureau managers, and Reese then forbade the incident from being used in training.
The proposed settlement between the police and federal justice department calls for an array of changes in bureau policies and practices.
The bureau would revise its use of force policies so officers have “necessary guidance” when encountering someone with mental illness. Taser use would be restricted and officers would be directed to focus on de-escalating encounters. The bureau would expand its single Mobile Crisis Unit team, which pairs an officer with a Project Respond mental health expert, to provide 24-hour, 7-day-a-week coverage. A Mental Health Triage Desk would be created at the dispatch center so that mental health-related calls are properly routed to the appropriate agency.
Under the agreement, the city would also work with community mental health providers to try to open a 24-hour secure center where police could drop off people suffering with mental illness, which would give officers more options. Clients could also walk into the center.
Justice officials also urged the bureau to bring back scenario-based role-playing in its crisis intervention training. The report advocates training officers to go “hands on” to make an arrest after an initial use of less-lethal force, and called for the bureau to find a way to interview officers involved in shootings immediately afterward.
Derald Walker, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare’s chief executive officer, said many of the recommendations will take added resources. “Like so many thing, it’s all about the money,” Walker said. “It’s going to require a huge amount of political and public will to see that happen.”
Officer Daryl Turner, Portland Police Association president, said he disagreed with the federal agency’s conclusions. He called on the city to hire more officers to meet the requested reforms.
“As Chief Reese has said, the officers ‘are not to blame,’ ” Turner said, in a statement. “Nevertheless, we all can take comfort in at least two things – the USDOJ did not find a pattern and practice of unreasonable force against any particular race, nor did the USDOJ find a pattern and practice of unreasonable deadly force.”
Perez, at Thursday’s news conference, said there were obvious “tensions that exist between the Portland Police Bureau and communities of color.” Perez said he hoped a new community group set up to monitor the proposed bureau reforms will also work to address this problem, as well.
He urged the bureau to conduct a bureau-wide “intensive cultural sensitivity and competency training.”
“All citizens – especially our most vulnerable – must be able to trust the police,” Perez said.
Mental health in Oregon: State has more work to do
At the podium, Amanda Marshall, U.S. attorney for Oregon. Behind her (L to R): Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez; Portland Police Chief Mike Reese; Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
Six years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into Oregon’s mental health system. A lot has happened since then but advocates say a person in the throes of a mental health crisis may actually be worse off today.
That was crystal clear Thursday when the federal Justice Department released an investigation into the Portland Police Bureau that concluded the “absence of a comprehensive community mental health infrastructure” means police are shouldering the burden of being the first to respond to people in crisis. That, despite the fact that Oregon has a new, state-of-the-art mental hospital.
The Justice report, released Thursday, quotes one “high level” Portland Police officer who said he used to encounter people suffering mental health issues “a couple of times a month.” Now it’s “a couple of times a day.”
Everyone seems to agree that the Portland Police report focuses on fixing a short-term crisis but the state needs to continue to work toward long-term solutions.
There are a lot of people working to improve mental health care in Oregon, says Bob Joondeph, executive director for Disability Rights Oregon.
“But I would not say that we have a significant change in conditions on the ground,” he adds. “That may be even worse because there are fewer resources available now than there were a few years ago.”
Still, Joondeph and other advocates say they’re hopeful about national health care reforms, which broaden insurance coverage for more people, and about Oregon’s new coordinated care organizations, intended to focus on prevention and integrate physical and mental health care.
U.S. Justice Department officials are also waiting to see whether the health reforms will take care of their concerns.
In 2006, federal officials warned Oregon that conditions at the state mental hospital violated patients’ civil rights. The state built a $458.1 million hospital in Salem.
Then, in 2010, the Justice Department widened its inquiry, looking at whether Oregonians with mental illness were able to receive care in their communities rather than in a large hospital far from home.
Just as it appeared that federal officials were running out of patience with Oregon’s progress, Gov. John Kitzhaber persuaded them to give the state more time.
The Justice Department agreed.
“We want to be sure we get it right,” Thomas Perez, the department’s top civil rights lawyer said Thursday.
Dr. Bruce Goldberg, head of the Oregon Health Authority, said Oregon has added about 100 beds — community residential treatment or supported housing — in the past two years, Goldberg said.
“It’s good, but it’s not enough,” he acknowledged. “I think we need to do more … Part of the issue is we’ve been challenged as a state by our economic issues.”
Beckie Child, an advocate who has dealt personally with mental health issues, says she wants to see the state invest in housing and peer support for people in treatment.
“They’ve been talking at the 90,000-foot-level and not what it is like for folks on the ground,” she said.
The state is planning to build a new 174-bed hospital in Junction City, though patient advocates argue that it would be better to spend the money helping people get care in their communities.
“The Health Authority needs to talk about how it’s going to make an investment to keep people out of crisis,” said Chris Bouneff, executive director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Oregon.
Instead, Bouneff says, state officials are “fixated on a giant institution in Junction City.”
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, says the simple fact that Oregonians are talking more openly about mental health care is a sign of progress.
Several years ago, Courtney was taken into what he calls the “room of lost souls,” where thousands of corroding cans containing the ashes of former hospital patients had been stored and forgotten.
For him, that became a symbol of the state’s long-neglected mental health system.
“We’re moving in the right direction because the only direction we could move was up,” he said. “Are we going fast enough? No. Are we anywhere near where we should be? No.”
Portland officer apologizes for ‘knee-jerk’ message criticizing federal inquiry
Portland Police Officer John Hurlman was seated in his patrol car Thursday morning, listening to a local radio station’s coverage of a news conference at police headquarters. Federal justice department officials were about to unveil their findings after more than a yearlong review of Portland police use of force.
Hurlman sent a text message out to all officers on the patrol car’s mobile computer, alerting them to tune in.
Shortly after the U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall started to speak, another officer texted the news back to all: the U.S. Department of Justice had found that Portland police engage in a pattern and practice of excessive force against people suffering from mental illness.
Annoyed by the outcome, Hurlman said he typed back something like, “This is the same DOJ or people who created Waco and Ruby Ridge.”
The North Precinct officer was referring to two of the biggest federal law enforcement fiascoes in recent memory: the disastrous 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas. The other, the tragic 1992 encounter between the FBI and a band of white separatists at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Hurlman said he thought he had just responded to one officer but soon learned his message had popped up on all patrol officers’ mobile computers.
“It was kind of a knee-jerk reaction,” said the 21-year Portland police veteran. “In the current political climate, it wasn’t appropriate. On second-thought, I probably shouldn’t have done it.”
Yet Hurlman doesn’t hide his anger with the Justice Department’s ruling regarding Portland police.
“I was really annoyed at that moment, and, in fact, I think it’s nonsense,” he said Friday of the federal review. “Quite frankly, we’re being judged by people who don’t have much law enforcement experience.”
Hurlman said he was one of the original Portland officers to volunteer for crisis intervention training, before it became mandatory for all officers.
“We all know the lengths we go to to try to defuse these situations peacefully,” he said. “Nobody wants to go out and harm someone who is mentally ill.”
North Precinct Cmdr. Mike Leloff soon learned of the patrolwide message and called Hurlman into his office for a stern talk. Hurlman said Leloff appropriately, “chewed him out.”
As a result, Hurlman later Thursday texted an apology to all on his patrol car’s mobile computer.
He said it read something like this: “To those who received my earlier message, my remarks were unprofessional and insensitive. I apologize to anyone who received it.”
Portland Lt. Robert King said Friday, “The issue was addressed immediately by the Command Staff and the matter has been dealt with appropriately.”
Hurlman was back on patrol Friday, responding to emergency calls at North Precinct. He said he was advised to be careful about what he says and remain respectful.
A day after the federal report was made public, Hurlman added Friday, “People here are frustrated, to put it mildly.”
Portland Police Chief Responds To Federal Investigation
Last week, the federal Department of Justice released the results of a long-running investigation into how Portland Police officers use force. It that found a pattern of excessive force, especially with people with mental illness.
Monday, on OPB’s Think Out Loud, Police Chief Mike Reese discussed the findings and the future of his bureau.
Host Dave Miller asked Reese what the ideal role would be for police to play with someone with mental illness.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday morning are expected to announce the federal agency’s findings from a more than 14-month-long investigation into Portland police use of force.
Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division
The federal agency opened a civil rights investigation June 28, 2011, to determine whether the Portland Police Bureau engages in a “pattern or practice’’ of excessive force, particularly against people with mental illness.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez came to Portland last June to announce the federal inquiry. He said then that the review was prompted by a significant increase in police shootings during the prior 18 months, the majority involving people with mental illness.
Perez is back in town Thursday, set to announce the findings with U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, Mayor Sam Adams and Mike Reese, chief of police, at 10:30 a.m. at the Justice Center, located at 1111 Southwest 2nd Avenue, in Room 14B.
Lt. Robert King, a police spokesman, declined to comment on the nature of the morning’s announcement.
The police investigation was to overlap with an ongoing federal investigation into Oregon’s mental health care system, federal officials said.
Special litigation attorneys in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, have been evaluating bureau policies, procedures and practices, as well as specific officer-involved fatal shootings or deaths in custody.
In February, federal authorities held their first public forum in Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood to hear citizens’ accounts of their interactions with Portland police officers. And in August 2011, Justice Department officials held individual interviews with community groups.
If violations are identified, the federal agency will recommend remedies and may monitor the Police Bureau until it’s satisfied the bureau has addressed the problems.
Since the inquiry began, Chief Mike Reese has made some changes in response to federal recommendations. He began to require sergeants immediately initiate investigations into officers’ use of force and assigned a new inspector to analyze data on such incidents, a gap identified by the Justice Department during the course of the inquiry. Just last week, the Portland police released its own 4-page statistical report on police use of force, showing a 35 percent decline between 2008 and 2011.
Earlier this year, Reese defended his officers’ use of force. He cited increasing calls involving suicidal people and decried the faltering safety net for those with mental illness.
Portland joined a growing number of police agencies, including Seattle, Newark, N.J. and New Orleans, that have been targeted for federal review in the last few years, under a 1994 law passed by Congress after the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.
In Seattle, the federal agency announced this summer that a court-appointed monitor was to ensure that Seattle Police revise its use of force policies, and enhance its training, reporting, investigations and supervision of police use of force. The Justice Department found that Seattle police engaged in a “pattern or practice of excessive force,’’ but did not find a practice of discriminatory policing.
The federal inquiry in Portland – the first comprehensive federal investigation into the city’s police bureau- followed a string of controversial Portland officer-involved fatal shootings or deaths in police custody of people suffering from mental illness.
In February 2010, city officials, including former police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor Sam Adams, had asked the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a full review of the Police Bureau after the Jan. 29, 2010 police fatal shooting of Campbell, an unarmed black man who was distraught following the death of his brother earlier that day.
Community leaders disturbed by the high-profile police shootings and deaths in custody also pressed for such an inquiry.
Among their concerns: the high profile September 2006 death in police custody of James P. Chasse Jr., a 42-year-old man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia; the fatal shooting of a 58-year-old homeless man Jack Dale Collins who emerged from a restroom at Hoyt Arboretum with an X-Acto knife; and the shooting of homeless veteran Thomas Higginbotham, who was shot 10 times after he emerged from a Southeast Portland car wash with a knife.
An arbitrator has ordered the city of Portland to dismiss two-week suspensions against former Officer Christopher Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice stemming from the death-in-custody of James P. Chasse Jr. in September 2006.
IN THE MATTER OF THE ARBITRATION BETWEEN PORTLAND POLICE ASSOCIATION ( “PPA” OR “THE UNION” ) AND CITY OF PORTLAND (“THE CITY” OR “THE EMPLOYER” )
HEARING: FEBRUARY 13 –17, 2012 HEARING CLOSED: MAY 8, 2012
ARBITRATOR: Timothy D.W. Williams 2700 4th Avenue #305 Seattle, WA 98121
REPRESENTING THE EMPLOYER: Stephanie Harper, Deputy City Attorney, Dave Famous, Captain Portland Police Bureau, Mgmt Rep, Darla Collar, Paralegal
REPRESENTING THE UNION: Anil Karia, Attorney, Sergeant Kyle Nice, Grievant, Office Chris Humphreys, Grievant, Office Daryl Turner, President, Portland Police Assoc.
APPEARING AS WITNESSES FOR THE EMPLOYER:, Michael Poorkley, PPB, Internal Affairs Investigator, Tamara Hergert, AMR Paramedic, Rosie Sizer, Former Chief of Police, Dan Saltzman, Former Commissioner of Police Bureau, Dave Famous, Captain Portland Police Bureau, Dwight Pahlke, Sgt. Portland Police Bureau
APPEARING AS WITNESSES FOR THE UNION:, Kyle Nice, Sgt. Portland Police Bureau, Chris Humphreys, Former Office Portland Police Bureau, Bob Brown, Officer Portland Police Bureau, Dan Livingston, Sgt. Portland Police Bureau, W. Ken Katsaris, Police Consultant
“The Arbitrator is certainly aware of the controversy surrounding the James Chasse case,” arbitrator Timothy D.W. Williams wrote in a 60-page ruling. “The viral nature of the events that occurred on Sept. 17, 2006 does not, however, change the standards or protocols that a labor arbitrator uses to resolve a grievance.”
Chasse’s family lawyer Tom Steenson and then-police commissioner Dan Saltzman reacted with disgust Thursday, while police union leaders called the arbitrator’s order a “vindication” for Nice and Humphreys.
Chasse, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in police custody from broad-based blunt force trauma to the chest Sept. 17, 2006, after officers chased him and knocked him to the ground in the Pearl District. Paramedics came to the scene but did not take Chasse, 42, to the hospital. Instead, police drove him to jail, but jail staff refused to book him. Police then drove him in a cruiser to the hospital, but he died on the way.
In February 2010, Saltzman suspended Humphreys and Nice for violating the bureau’s Taser directive. He found they failed to insist that Chasse be taken by ambulance to a hospital after police stunned him with a Taser, and did not brief paramedics fully about the police struggle and use of the stun gun. Humphreys also was cited for not requiring Chasse be taken by ambulance to the hospital after the jail refused to book him.
The arbitrator said the city failed to prove its charges, particularly because “competent medical personnel approved or directed the transportation of Mr. Chasse by police car.”
“While Sergeant Nice and Officer Humphreys could have provided a much more thorough statement of the observed medical problems related to Mr. Chasse, the evidence is compelling and indicates that this information would not have changed paramedic (Tami) Hergert’s conclusion that Mr. Chasse was safe to take to jail,” the arbitrator wrote.
Williams directed the city to pay lost wages to Nice and Humphreys.
The ruling comes on the heels of another arbitrator’s ruling this year that ordered the city to rehire officer Ronald Frashour, who was fired for fatally shooting an unarmed man in 2010. The city is challenging that ruling.
The bureau’s Taser Directive at the time of Chasse’s death said EMS will be summoned when a Taser is used, and “EMS will also transport” a patient to the hospital, if a child, elderly person, someone who is “obviously medically fragile,” suffering from “hyper stimulation” or “agitated delirium” is stunned.
Saltzman testified at arbitration that Chasse, based on the record, appeared hyperstimulated, and the directive should have kicked in. The union countered that the officers did not notice a medical condition that would have required transport and relied on paramedics. Further, the union argued there was no bureau policy on what officers are required to share with medics.
The arbitrator agreed with the union, that there was no evidence Chasse suffered from “hyper stimulation and/or agitated delirium,” as his vital signs showed no elevated heart rate, blood pressure, temperature or respiration.
“I can’t say it surprises me,” said Steenson, who won a $1.6 million settlement against the city in 2010 after filing a federal wrongful death lawsuit. “The city is incapable of having any kind of system in place to control its officers.”
The $1.6 million settlement was the city’s largest payout stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit. But the city admitted no wrongdoing.
“Obviously I feel my decision was the right one,” Saltzman said. “This is another example of arbitrators gone wild.”
Nice now works in the Telephone Reporting Unit and serves as a firearms instructor. Humphreys was medically laid off from the bureau Nov. 23, 2010, because of the time he missed work collecting disability payments. But he’s now considered fit for duty and is running for sheriff in Wheeler County.
Police union leaders hope the arbitrator’s ruling would amount to a “name clearing.”
“Sergeant Nice and Officer Humphreys were trained to police. They are not paramedics or nurses,” union president Daryl Turner said. “It was a tragedy what occurred. These are not victories for us. There’s some vindication for the officers involved.”
Humphreys, in a written statement, noted that his actions were scrutinized by a grand jury, the bureau’s Use of Force Review Board and now an arbitrator. “In all cases I have been cleared,” he wrote, adding that he looks forward to serving as the next Wheeler County sheriff.
The arbitrator said a key question was: What difference would it have made if Nice or Humphreys had given more information to the paramedic at the scene?
Hergert testified in a deposition that she wished she had known Chasse had been Tased, but it wouldn’t have changed “the vital signs or exam I had done on Mr. Chasse.”
“Overall and in hindsight, the Arbitrator finds much that could have been done differently,” Williams wrote. “However, based on the training that Sergeant Nice and Officer Humphreys received and on the conclusions reached by the lead paramedic, the Arbitrator does not find evidence that the failure of Sergeant Nice to have Mr. Chasse medically transported to the hospital an offense that should be subjected to discipline.”
Chasse’s death led to new policies. Since March 2009, Portland arresting officers are required to provide “complete and thorough” information on any use of force used to EMS personnel, and says EMS personnel will make a final decision on whether to transport someone to a hospital. Ambulances now must be called to transport suspects whom the jail refuses to book for medical concerns to a hospital.
Arbitrator Overturns Suspensions for Cops in Chasse Death
An arbitrator has told the Portland Police Bureau it must overturn two-week suspensions handed out to two police officers—Sergeant Kyle Nice and Officer Christopher Humphreys—who were involved in the fatal 2006 beating of James Chasse Jr.
The decision was confirmed by Dan Saltzman’s office, which has so far just seen an email synopsis of the finding and declined to comment without reviewing the full ruling. Saltzman, as police commissioner in 2009, suspended both officers because he thought they botched the medical care of Chasse, a man suffering from schizophrenia who was tackled, Tasered, and pummeled by officers who incorrectly accused of him of public urination and carrying drugs
Saltzman argued that the officers should have insisted that an ambulance take Chasse to a hospital, not drive him in their patrol car. And he also said, after the seriously injured Chasse passed out at the jail for the second time, that the officers again should have called an ambulance.
Here’s Saltzman testifying about his decision:
To me it’s really quite clear. It says if the Taser is used and one of certain circumstances apply to the individual, then EMS transport, that that person shall be transported by EMS. And there are two circumstances under which I felt that applied; one was sort of the excited delirium. The other was potentially the hyperstimulation. So there was two paragraphs in there as part of the directive that says EMS will transport. And I felt that both of those applied.
And just their [Nice and Humphreys] observations, too, that not only did they think he was high on drugs but they felt he had mental issues too, and I think that that’s also cited under rule 1051 as a basis for requiring EMS transport….
I felt that 80 hours was a minimally appropriate amount of suspension, and that’s what I went with.
The city attorney’s office says it doesn’t have a copy of the ruling it can send out, but the Oregonian, in a post this morning, quoted from a copy it obtained, presumably from the Portland Police Association. According to the paper and others familiar with the ruling, the arbitrator decided that even if Humphreys and Nice had more forcefully argued for an ambulance, that paramedics still would have made the call to let the police try to take Chasse to jail.
Here’s the arbitrator, Timothy Williams, explaining his thinking. He relies on the testimony of lead paramedic Tamara Hergert—but not as much from the arbitration hearing as from her deposition in a civil case filed over Chasse’s death:
There is no dispute between the Parties that Sergeant Nice and Officer Humphreys could have provided substantially more information to the paramedics. Moreover, in this Arbitrator’s view, the efforts by the City, since the Chasse incident, to require better communication between officers and paramedics is prudent and reasonable. Dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s makes good sense when dealing with medical emergencies and certainly is essential regarding risk management and the potential for civil liability.
However, the Arbitrator emphasizes the fact that in the instant case Sergeant Nice and Officer Humphreys are not being disciplined for their poor communication. The City is emphasizing the communication deficiency as a way of disarming the fact that the lead paramedic twice indicated that it was safe to transport Mr. Chasse to jail. The basic question the Arbitrator asks is what difference would it have made if Sergeant Nice and/or Officer Humphreys had given more information to paramedic Hergert. A quick review of Hergert’s testimony at the arbitration hearing provides the following:
Q. BY [DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY STEPHANIE] HARPER: I know it’s a hypothetical question, but if you had been told that the Taser had been used, what, if any, different steps would you have taken?
A. I’m not sure, quite honestly. There is the, if they had been tasered and they’re acting completely abnormal to the situation, you transport them in case they have or develop the excited delirium stuff. But other than refusing to talk to us much of what Mr. Chasse did was seemingly appropriate. He saw people standing around him. He saw what he thought was his backpack. He yelled when people picked him up. I would like to say positively I would have transported him, but honestly, I can’t say that for sure. I wish I had known so we could have added in. It may have made a difference. It may not I wish I had known.
Q BY MS. HARPER: Do you wish you had known that he had fallen to the ground hard?
A. Yes. (Tr 165, 166)
Paramedic Hergert is more specific in her deposition given for the civil litigation. There she provides the following statement:
Q: And what was the conversation that you had at the scene when you were clearing the scene?
A: After we had left the scene he mentioned one of the officers told him that Mr. Chasse had been Tased. And when I asked him about what do you mean Tased, he says, well, no, they said he – they tried to Tase him but it hadn’t taken.
Q: And did that cause you to change anything that you had thought about in terms of your care and treatment of the patient?
A: No. It was a piece of information I would have liked to have at the – at the time, but it didn’t change the vital signs or exam I had done on Mr. Chasse [emphasis added by arbitrator]. (J 24, P 10)
The suspensions, coming more than three years after Chasse’s September 2006 death, were controversial both because they were handed down so long after the incident and because Saltzman overruled then-Police Chief Rosie Sizer, who initially proposed just a one-week suspension, for Nice. The arbitration hearing came earlier this year and was still listed as unsettled this spring, back when the Mercury reviewed 10 years of police grievances. Humphreys was also suspended for bean-bagging a 12-year-old girl at a MAX stop, and Nice was found “out of policy” after pulling out his gun during an off-duty road-rage incident. He was then suspended.
One question now is whether the city will fight the ruling, just as it’s fighting an arbitrator’s order to reinstate Ron Frashour, the officer who shot and killed Aaron Campbell in the back in 2010. I’ve not heard back from Mayor Sam Adams’ office in regards to that question, but sources say Saltzman, for one, isn’t planning on pushing this to the state Employment Relations Board.
In both the Chasse and the Campbell death, the city agreed to pay out large settlements in federal court, $1.6 million and $1.2 million, respectively.
Police union praises Chasse case discipline reversal
Arbitrator overrules suspension of sergeant and officer involved in controversial 2012 death
The Portland Police Association is praising a state arbitrator’s decision reversing the suspensions of Sergeant Kyle Nice and Office Chris Humphreys for their actions related to the death of James Chasse, a mentally ill man who died after being arrested in September 2006.
In a Thursday afternoon press release, the union representing the police bureau’s rank-and-file employees said the decision was based on “facts, not media supposition or rumors.”
Former Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman and former Police Chief Rosie Sizer suspended Nice and Humphries without pay for not providing proper medical care to Chasse, who died after being injured while struggling during an arrest in the Pearl District. The city settled a civil lawsuit filed by Chasse’s family in 2012 for $1.6 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a case related to an in-custody death.
The Oregon State Medical Examinber ruled Chasse died from blunt-force trauma.
In its release, the PPA said the arbitrator reached the ruling after five days of hearings, taking the testimony of several witness and reviewing thousands of page of documents.
Portland Police Bureau Police investigators photographed the casing fired from former Officer Ronald Frashour's AR-15 rifle on January 29, 2010 as evidence. The .223 caliber bullet struck Aaron Campbell, 25, in the back, killing him. Frashour was fired from the Police Bureau in November 2010 for his use of deadly force.
More than a year after Portland Police Chief Mike Reese fired Officer Ronald Frashour for his fatal shooting of an unarmed black man and found the officer violated bureau policy, at least 11 bureau training instructors argue the chief was wrong.
In fact, Portland Officer Tracy Chamberlain, a lead patrol tactics instructor, was ready to testify this month in a federal case brought by Aaron Campbell’s family that any Portland officer would have acted as Frashour did, court documents show.
Campbell’s family agreed to settle their federal wrongful death suit against the city last week for $1.2 million, so the training instructors never took the stand. But Tom Steenson, attorney for the family, urged Mayor Sam Adams and the chief to address the disconnect between what they say is police bureau policy and what is being taught to the rank and file.
“I think that the command structure and the commissioner in charge and the mayor have never seriously looked at the training on the use of force,” Steenson said, “and when they finally decide to discipline somebody for use of force, they got the training thrown back in their face. It’s not new training, but the training they’ve been given forever.”
The police union has challenged Frashour’s firing before a state arbitrator. The challenge largely rests on the testimony of the same bureau instructors who say Frashour followed his training and they were never consulted before his termination. An arbitrator has not issued a ruling. As of Feb. 4, the city has spent $434,514 for outside counsel to defend the firing.
Reese and Adams declined comment Tuesday, citing the ongoing arbitration. Reese, though, has previously defended his decision and the training division’s review.
In late November 2010, Reese said then-training Lt. Robert King and Lt. Dave Virtue had thoroughly reviewed police reports and consulted outside experts. “Is everyone on board? No. But I believe it was the right decision; otherwise I wouldn’t have made it,” Reese said.
Family photo Aaron Campbell
On Jan. 29, 2010, Campbell, 25, distraught and suicidal over his brother’s death that day, emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment, with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head. Officer Ryan Lewton, who said he was trying to get Campbell to put his hands in the air, fired six bean bag rounds at him. Frashour fired a single shot from his AR-15 rifle at Campbell, striking the unarmed man in the back.
The chief found it was unreasonable for Frashour to believe that Campbell posed an “immediate threat” of death or serious injury. He found Frashour seemed to only focus on his AR-15 rifle without noticing what was going on around him, and refused to acknowledge that the six beanbag rounds that struck Campbell before the fatal shot could have caused a pain reaction, such as running away. The chief found Frashour never considered the possibility that Campbell was unarmed.
According to court documents, 11 Portland police training instructors, and retired Portland Officer Mike Stradley, who was Frashour’s field training officer, were ready to testify otherwise. All are, or have been, members of the same union fighting Frashour’s firing, the Portland Police Association.
Officer Nathan Voeller, a lead defensive tactics instructor, was ready to testify that Portland officers are trained that they’re not required to see a gun before using lethal force if the officer believes the suspect poses an immediate risk of death or serious injury. “They are trained they need to be preemptive,” Voeller was to testify, according to a trial memorandum filed by Frashour’s lawyer.
According to the document, Portland police are taught that if they wait to see a person pull or point a firearm, they won’t be able to react fast enough before the suspect fires.
Chamberlain planned to testify that Campbell did not react to Lewton’s beanbag shots in a “typical fashion,” and “that moving his hands towards or into his waistband while running towards hard cover (a car) was indicative of the intent to pull a handgun.”
Officer Ryan Coffey, the bureau’s lead defensive tactics instructor, was to testify Portland police are taught not to allow potentially armed suspects to “secure hard cover,” the document said. Further, police are taught that suicidal people are “frequently homicidal,” the instructors were to testify. Former defensive tactics instructor Todd Engstrom was to point out that Frashour’s sole focus as the officer with an AR-15 rifle was to provide “lethal cover.”
Coffey had objected to the bureau’s findings in a meeting with then-training Lt. Robert King, before the chief fired Frashour.
“He (Coffey) will describe the comments of multiple defensive tactics instructors expressing disagreement at that meeting and Lt. King’s response, which included that his final evaluation had to take into account the political ramifications of a Portland police officer shooting an African American in the back who turned out to be unarmed,” the trial memorandum said.
Stuart Tomlinson/The Oregonian Marva Davis, mother of Aaron Campbell, talks about her family's decision to settle a suit against the Police Bureau for $1.2 million.
Members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance this morning stood with Aaron Campbell’s mother in support of the recent $1.2 million settlement of the family’s federal wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Portland.
Marva Davis, Campbell’s mother who had lost another son the day a Portland police officer fatally shot 25-year-old Campbell on Jan. 29, 2010, said she agreed to settle the case because she didn’t want to experience the pain again.
“I don’t want to relive this again. It hurts,” Davis said, speaking outside City Hall. “I lost two sons that day, just not Aaron. I don’t want to relive that.”
The family’s attorney, Tom Steenson, has publicly urged Police Chief Mike Reese to address a “disconnect” between the chief’s findings that the shooting violated policy, and the expected testimony of at least 11 bureau training instructors who said the chief was wrong and the officers involved acted as trained.
“I just hope we can work together and get to a point where we can feel good about calling the police,” Davis said.
Campbell, distraught and suicidal over his brother’s death earlier that day, emerged from his girlfriend’s Northeast Portland apartment, walking backwards with his hands behind his head. Officer Ryan Lewton fired six beanbag less-lethal shotgun rounds at him, when Campbell didn’t follow his orders to put his hands in the air.
Officer Ronald Frashour fired a single shot from his AR-15 rifle, as Campbell ran behind a car. Frashour has said he thought Campbell was reaching for a gun. The 25-year-old was unarmed.
The Rev. LeRoy Haynes of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and Marva Davis, mother of Aaron Campbell call for police reforms, better training in the use of deadly force.
LeRoy Haynes, chair of the Albina Ministerial Alliance’s Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, today praised Campbell’s family.
“This family has shown their strength and this mother has shown what she’s made up of – grace to struggle against the injustices that were committed against their son Aaron Campbell, in this horrendous act of shooting an unarmed young African American in the back with his hands locked around his neck,” Haynes said.
Haynes said the coalition echoes the family’s call for the chief and Mayor Sam Adams to address “the contradiction between policy and training within the bureau.”
Haynes also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the Campbell case closely. Steenson has sent a package to the federal investigators containing trial discovery documents.
Although the coalition would have preferred a trial to allow the community to see the “brokenness” in the Police Bureau, Haynes said he hopes the Campbell case will be a “pivotal lawsuit” that will spur bureau reforms.
“Let us use this historical moment in a positive way to create a better Police Bureau,” Haynes said.
Fredrick D. Joe/The Oregonian Reverend Reneé Ward talks through a bullhorn microphone to Portlanders upset by the police shooting of Aaron Campbell at Pioneer Courthouse Square Friday, Feb. 19, 2010. Afterward they marched up Broadway to Portland State University where they held a rally. Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, who was at PSU for a meeting, spoke to the crowd.
The city of Portland has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of Aaron Campbell, who was shot to death by Portland police two years ago.
Civil rights attorney Tom Steenson said the $1.2 million Campbell settlement is “the most that the city’s insurer has ever paid out” stemming from a lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams issued an apology to his family, and wrote on his Facebook page:
“As Mayor of the City of Portland, I would like to personally apologize to Aaron Campbell’s family, particularly to his mother, Marva Davis, and his four children. Today’s settlement does not erase the Campbell family’s pain, nor does it bring back their father, son, brother, and cousin—and for that, I am very sorry.”
“As a mother, I regrettably do not believe my living sons are safe. That bond of community trust has been broken. I cannot say to them that if there is a mental health crisis … ‘call the police,’” Davis’ statement read.
Steenson criticizes Chief Mike Reese for not changing the police bureau’s use of force policy to require police to consider a person’s mental health state.
“There is no good reason not to make this change,” Steenson wrote in his prepared news release.
Later he added, “Given the number of people who are emotionally upset, in crisis, who end up being killed by police, it seems like something simple to do.”
The Aaron Campbell settlement was reached a week before federal trial was set to begin. On Monday, attorneys for the city, Ronald Frashour and Ryan Lewton, and Campbell’s family argued several pre-trial motions before U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman. Trial was set to start next Tuesday.
Frashour was fired from the Portland Police Bureau last year for his use of deadly force against Campbell on Jan. 29, 2010. Campbell, who was unarmed, was shot in the back as he emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment, with his back toward officers and his hands behind his head.
Officer Ryan Lewton had first fired six beanbag rounds at Campbell, trying to get him to put his hands in the air. Reese and Adams found Frashour’s use of force inappropriate because Campbell was not posing an immediate threat of death or physical injury.
Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian Attorney Tom Steenson at a news conference Wednesday at the Sellwood Community Center.
Frashour’s attorney argued that Frashour acted as a reasonable officer would, forced to make a split-second decision when he saw Campbell drop his hands off his head toward his waistband and run toward an apartment complex, reaching for what Frashour believed was a gun in his jacket pocket.
The Portland Police Association has challenged Frashour’s firing before a state arbitrator. No ruling has been made.
Frashour’s lawyer, Robert S. Wagner, said in court this week that Frashour’s firing was “politically motivated.”
Wagner intended to call multiple Portland police training officers to the witness stand had the case gone to trial who would have testified that they were never consulted by then training officer Lt. Robert King when discipline was being considered for Frashour, according to court records. The training officers were ready to testify that Frashour acted according to police policy and training, and they did not support his termination, court records show.
Steenson said he’s concerned about the apparent disconnect between Portland police trainers and command staff.
“Officers Frashour and Lewton were going to call as witnesses at trial 11 of the trainers who teach our officers the rules. All of these trainers were to testify under oath that Chief Reese is wrong,” Steenson wrote in his release. “This disconnect between what the Police Bureau’s policy is supposed to mean and what officers are trained to do is dangerous, and puts us all at risk.”
Steenson said the bureau should be considering a person’s emotional and mental state, based on the the 2001 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s Deorle opinion. That stemmed from a California case in which an officer fired a less-lethal, beanbag round into the face of an emotionally disturbed, unarmed man, who lost an eye and had lead shot implanted in his skull.
In that case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that “even when an emotionally disturbed individual is ‘acting out’ and inviting officers to use deadly force to subdue him, the government interest in using such force is diminished by the fact that the officers are confronted, not with a person who has committed a serious crime against others, but with a mentally ill individual.” And police must consider the fact a person is emotionally disturbed in determining whether to use force, the opinion said.
Steenson planned to argue at trial that Portland police failed to consider Campbell’s emotional state when he was shot and killed. He was emotionally distraught over the death of his brother that morning.
“Lewton and Frashour were well aware that they were responding to a welfare call, not a criminal incident, and did not give sufficient consideration to Campbell’s emotional state, as opposed to speculating he was armed and presented an immediate danger,” Steenson wrote.
Further, Steenson found that Multnomah County’s then-assistant county attorney Susan Dunaway had instructed county deputy sheriffs in September 2003 about the new legal standard cited by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He said the Portland Police Bureau had provided no similar guidance to its officers.
“Recent court decisions make it clear that one factor affecting the courts’ decisions regarding whether the use of force is objectively reasonable is whether the peace officer knew or should have known that the threat was mentally or emotionally disturbed at the time the force was used and whether in light of that knowledge, the peace officer should have taken different actions,” Dunaway wrote in a Sept. 4, 2003 memo.
Reese, through his spokesman Lt. Robert King, declined to make a statement today and referred questions to the city attorney’s office.
Deputy City Attorney David Landrum faced a complex defense had the case gone to trial, considering that the city had found Frashour acted unreasonably and fired him for violating bureau policy but yet was before the court and defending his actions as legal and constitutional.
Judge Michael Mosman asked Landrum on Monday that if the chief had called Frashour’s actions unreasonable, wouldn’t that amount to an admission of “wrongfulness” under the wrongful death statute.
Landrum argued that the chief meant Frashour’s actions violated bureau policy, but the chief was not talking about a legal standard.
“On what basis, do I not take the speaker at his word?” Mosman asked Landrum.
“If everytime a police officer is disciplined, the city is automatically liable under state law, then I don’t know why we need a jury,” Landrum replied.
The settlement was reached after a marathon day of talks that stretched from 10 a.m. to about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, with U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken serving as a mediator.
Aiken also had helped the city and attorneys for the family of James Chasse Jr. reach a settlement in May 2010. In that case, the city paid a $1.6 million settlement – the city’s largest in history. Chasse, a 42-year-old who suffered from schizophrenia, died in police custody in September 2006.
While the Chasse case is the largest settlement in city history, in that case the city’s secondary insurance carrier paid about $833,000 of it.
In the Campbell case, the city hired multiple outside attorneys to represent Frashour and Lewton and two other officers who were subsequently dismissed from the case.
Steenson said he was told that the city already had eaten up its $1 million available from the city’s insurance and claims fund, and will have to pay the bulk of the $1.2 million settlement through its secondary insurance carrier.
Steenson said he plans to provide all the documents obtained while preparing for trial to the U.S. Justice Department.
“If the city’s not willing to make the changes and do the right thing” Steenson said, “we hope the justice department will force the department to do what it’s not willing to do on it’s own.”