The Portland Tribune broke the news last week that a jail video may have caught Portland Police officer Christopher Humphreys in a lie about the controversial 2006 death of James Chasse Jr.
That’s now the problem of city Commissioner Dan Saltzman— who Mayor-elect Sam Adams named to oversee the Portland Police Bureau starting Jan. 1.
The video shows that on the night Chasse died, Humphreys can be heard in the jail booking area saying “we tackled him” and “he fell hard.”
In the context of the incident as well as standard police lingo, Humphreys’ emphasis of the word “hard” suggests Chasse’s fall was painful and possibly injurious.
But three days later, Humphreys told investigators that he followed his training by merely pushing Chasse; he claimed he neither tackled Chasse nor landed on him.
Despite his otherwise detailed recollection, he claimed he did not recall how Chasse landed — hard, or otherwise.
Humphreys’ statement to detectives not only conflicts with his earlier booking-area account, it doesn’t square with the medical evidence as well as the eyewitness accounts — including that of his own sergeant— that Humphreys used a bearhug tackle, contrary to his training.
Why might Humphreys have lied? Because in a controversial case, not following training can get you fired.
So what’s next? Some of his fellow street cops think Humphreys will be spared serious discipline.
If so, it will be Saltzman who takes the heat — though it’s not even his bureau yet.
OUR COMMENT – What happened to James Chasse is the most serious challenge for Portland police management in memory – a challenge they’ve largely failed. The officers acted with brutality and impunity, and their proxies remain arrogant and defensive. That Sam Adams hands the problem off to an intermediary is meaningless. Since the district attorney flubbed the case against the three officers, we hold the mayor and the chief – regardless of who they are – entirely responsible for what happened to James, and for any other innocent persons harmed by police officers.