“The late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King said we are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation,” said the Reverend Doctor Leroy Haynes, vice president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance this morning. “James P Chasse, Junior, who died in police custody of blunt force trauma, cries out today from the grave for justice, justice for the weak, the voiceless, and the victims,” he continued. “We stand today giving voice to the cry for justice for James P Chasse, and others who were victims of excessive force by the Portland Police Bureau.”
“Our city administrators and leaders have demonstrated they lack the political will to enforce accountability on this issue,” said Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland. “We have more confidence that the officers will voluntarily resign than that the City will terminate their employment, and we hope they do.”
Four mental health advocates were joined by a host of community members this morning on SW Fifth to call for the resignation of Portland Police Bureau Sergeant Kyle Nice, Officer Christopher Humphreys and Officer Bret Burton. “It’s good that the Independent Police Review has ordered an outside review of the investigation into Chasse’s death,” said Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, who also attended the press conference. “But where were they during the investigation?”
“We ask that these three men, who have probably contemplated their actions more than anyone, take on a new, positive, restorative role, and begin to repair the damage they did on September 17, 2006 by resigning from the Portland Police Bureau immediately,” said Renaud.
“For more than three years, our city has dissected, debated, and bemoaned what happened to James Chasse, but this discussion remains inconclusive and inadequate when no one has been held responsible for his death,” Renaud continued. “For the vast majority of our community, these actions and the bureau’s findings are unacceptable.”
Haynes called for more serious discipline for the officers who participated in the action, and the call for voluntary resignation of the officers.
“I want to ask Police Commissioner Saltzman, Mayor Sam Adams and city council, what are you going to do to repair the trust that’s been broken in our community?” said Beckie Child, board president of Mental Health America of Oregon. “People who have mental health issues already have a pretty significant fear of police officers. People are afraid of law enforcement officers, and the decision that Chief Sizer came to has done nothing to help that trust. Families who are concerned about their loved ones will not want to call the police.”
“He allegedly peed on the lawn,” Child continued. “And he’s dead because of that. I don’t understand how that makes any sense, and I don’t understand how we teach our children that they will be held accountable for their actions when we don’t hold the people in power accountable.”
“For people in the mental health community, success is living in the community,” said Bob Joondeph, Executive Director of Disability Rights of Oregon. “James Chasse was a success. He participated in treatment, but unfortunately for him he did not have the protection he needed.” “I’m here to talk about the pain that the mental health community has experienced as a result of what happened to James, and to ask for healing,” Joondeph continued. “Not only does the mental health community need healing, but the whole community, too.” “We are asking for the officers to look within themselves and do the right thing.”
“The officers themselves haven’t had the chance to do the right thing,” said Renaud. “They can simply resign and be heroes.”