Our letter to Mayor Tom Potter

Our letter to Mayor Tom Potter

Tom Potter
City Hall
September 17, 2007

Mayor Potter,

While we applaud your effort to consider how people with mental illness move through small portions of the criminal justice system with the Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force, direct accountability for James Chasse’s death remains unanswered.

A complete year has passed since James’ horrific killing at the hands of two Portland police officers and a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy, and a variety of questions and concerns persist. Unanswered, they undermine the credibility of the city.

Members of the Mental Health Association of Portland have collected and summarized some of the remaining questions and concerns from the community about what happened to James Chasse. These questions come from a wide variety of people, and not all questions represent all signers of this letter. Yet all these questions are open, inquiring, forthright and unguarded.

Your open and honest response to these questions will help regain the trust which has been hurt with the actions of individual officers, the comments of their associates, and the inability of the civil service to discipline or terminate the officers involved.

We understand there is an ongoing civil suit, but hope you consider reconciliation over defense in your response.

Question
What recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force have been implemented and what recommendations have not been implemented? Who is responsible for overseeing the process of implementation? Who is responsible to report to the public what efforts have been successful or unsuccessful?

Question
On reflection, do you believe the police department and Rosie Sizer in particular handled the Chasse case appropriately?

Question
Should officers responsible for serious injury to an individual provide their transport, care, and/or communication with health professionals regarding their condition?

Question
Has the city fully and completely disclosed all documents and records regarding the Chasse case to the legal team heading the civil suit filed by the family?

Question
How can potential conflicts of interest be eliminated, such as having the District Attorney’s office lead the grand jury proceedings in the case of death in police custody and/or accusations of excessive use of force?

Question
No officer has been indicted for excessive force by our current district attorney. How can it truly be possible no Portland police officer has used excessive force during the last decade?

Question
How can the City of Portland maintain a contract relationship with AMR after what happened to James Chasse? After 16 ribs broken, Taser shots, shoulder broken, punctured lungs, how could they send him to jail as if he were unharmed?

Question
If the City’s ambulance service responded to the James Chasse call today, how would they act differently than they did on September 17, 2006?

Question
In your opinion, would different officers have responded differently to James Chasse? Would James be alive today if Nice, Humphrey and Burton were not involved?

Question
By what date can a person in crisis be certain a responding officer will be CIT trained?

Question
What percentage of Portland officers has completed CIT training to date?

Question
Has CIT training been offered to law enforcement outside of Portland? Which departments have been trained and what percentage of officers in those departments have been trained?

Question
What part of the CIT training imbues mercy and compassion to police officers? What part of CIT training teaches de-escalation and rapport building techniques to promote peaceful outcomes? If this is not part of CIT training, can there be another source that can incorporate these basic principles of crisis management into this curriculum?

Question
What funding has been sought for or secured to expand and sustain supportive housing capacity for special needs populations?

Question
One of the recommendations from your Task Force was for restoration and expansion of state sponsored health insurance. What exactly was done by the city to accomplish this recommendation in the 2007 legislature?

Question
What has the City done to assure the County is able to provide treatment services as a safety net for people with mental illness?

Question
Considering the released grand jury evidence do you believe the District Attorney should indict the officers who killed James Chasse?

Question
Within the CIT program are officers instructed to refrain from using force with people they simply want to question?

Question
Speaking as a seasoned experienced law professional, are officers’ claims that they believe their life was in danger a sufficient justification for lethal use of force?

Question
The degree of force used against James Chasse outweighs the reasons for questioning his behavior. Is this degree of force still acceptable within your police department?

Question
City contracted emergency medical technicians judged James Chasse uninjured and not appropriate to take to an emergency room. The City has just renegotiated this contract. Within the new contract, are contract EMTs given a new set of instructions about how to handle a case such as Chasse’s?

Question
Would justice and public trust been better served in cases such as James Chasse’s with an independent investigation and an independent prosecutor?

Question
James Chasse was mortally injured when he left jail in custody of police officers. Do the Portland police continue to serve as ambulances for the jail? Is it still police and city practice to drive wounded prisoners to distant hospitals rather than the closest emergency room?

Question
Is the use of force by Portland officers appropriate in light of the many accusations of unnecessary or excessive use of force? How do you – as Mayor – find a balance between safety for officers and safety for the public?

Question
How can we explain the death of James Chasse to our children, and that the men who are responsible for his death were not held accountable?

Question
Please explain why other citizens should be held accountable when the district attorney’s office failed to hold the men responsible for James Chasse’s death accountable?

Question
Please explain the rationale behind asking a judge to protect the Police Bureau Internal Affairs investigation report about what happened to James Chasse.

Question
Since when is looking odd a crime?

We would appreciate complete answers to these questions and concerns before the end of October. Because many of these questions and concerns begin with a lack of trust we hope you understand our need to shine a bright light on our questions – and on your answers.

Thank you, Roy Silberstein, President

Co-signers: Oregon Advocacy Center, Albina Ministerial Alliance; Mindfreedom.