This press release press release, a list of policy changes, and a timeline of events, was distributed to the media on September 23 2009 in lieu of a direct response to the request by the Mental Health Association of Portland for release of the internal investigation of what happened to James Chasse, made on September 17 2009.
POLICE BUREAU RELEASES USE OF FORCE REVIEW BOARD FINDINGS ON THE DEATH OF JAMES CHASSE ALSO RELEASED: FINDINGS OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS INVESTIGATION REGARDING ENHANCED AUDIO OF JAIL VIDEO
Portland Police Chief Rosanne Sizer has released the findings of the Police Bureau’s Use of Force Review Board (UFRB) regarding Portland Police Officers’ actions in connection with the death of James Chasse. The Board originally completed its review late last year. However, before the Chief had finalized her review and decision in the case, the District Attorney opened a subsequent criminal investigation based on allegations made by the attorney for the Chasse family. The Chief held her final review until the District Attorney and Police Bureau had conducted an
additional investigation into the allegations that an officer involved had lied during the investigation. This investigation included consideration of an audio-enhanced video from the Multnomah County Jail. In May, the District Attorney’s office declined the criminal case and the Bureau’s administrative investigation into the allegations began.
The Police Bureau’s Internal Affairs Division conducted an additional investigation into the allegations of untruthfulness concerning the officer. The command review process concluded the truthfulness allegation was unproven. Recently, the members of the UFRB were asked to review the additional information from the video and decide if the new information might have changed any of their original recommendations. The members of the UFRB, which includes volunteer community members and Bureau personnel, concluded that the additional investigation, including the enhanced video, did not change their conclusions regarding whether the officers’ actions violated Bureau policies.
The Use of Force Review Board considered information from the investigations conducted by th Detective Division, the Training Division and Internal Affairs Division. As with any officer involved shooting or in-custody death, the UFRB conducts a comprehensive overview of all aspects of an event including the actions of every involved member of the Police Bureau.
The UFRB closely scrutinized the force used by the officers. The UFRB reviewed more than 1,200 pages of documents, including statements from all known witnesses, and spent approximately twelve hours discussing the investigation with experienced investigators and subject matter experts. The UFRB considered if the following actions were within Bureau policy and training: Failure to notify BOEC when initiating subject contact (Directives 612.00 and 630.15); Initiation of the Foot Pursuit (Directive 630.15); Push/Take Down to Terminate Pursuit (Directives 630.15 and 1010.20); Use of Force on Ground (Directives 1010.20 and 630.50); Post Force Medical Treatment (Directive 1010.20 and 630.50); Post Taser Medical (Directive 1051.00); Post Jail Transport (Directive 1010.20) and Training Issues.
At the conclusion of its review, the UFRB sent recommended findings to Chief Sizer. The UFRB concluded that the initiation and termination of the foot pursuit of Mr. Chasse did not violate any Bureau policy and that the force used during the struggle to stop, control and handcuff Mr. Chasse was within policy. As soon as the officers observed Mr. Chasse showing signs of medical distress, officers called for paramedics. At the time Mr. Chasse was transported to jail, officers had been told by paramedics Mr. Chasse was medically stable. There is no evidence in any report or witness statement that caused members of the UFRB to conclude that any officer at the scene knew or should have known that Mr. Chasse had suffered a serious physical injury. However, the Board concluded that the sergeant at the scene did not adhere to the Bureau’s directive requiring EMS to transport to the hospital individuals in certain situations following Taser deployment. Chief Sizer agreed with the Board’s findings and in regard to the recommendation concerning the post Taser medical transport issue, found that the sergeant involved is subject to the disciplinary process in the form of a suspension.
In addition, the Bureau’s training and directives have since been reinforced in an effort to ensure that medically fragile individuals are transported in an ambulance and not a police car. The tragic death of Mr. Chasse prompted additional policy changes, both in the Police Bureau and in officers’ contact with paramedics and the Multnomah County jail system. See the attached for more information.
Despite these improvements, members still struggle with a mental health system-wide crisis. “Many times, a police officer is the first responder to a person in mental crisis or a mentally fragile person involved in illegal activity. We remain committed to ensuring our training and partnerships with mental health professionals remain solid,” says Chief Sizer. “Even after this tragic incident, we still do not have enough beds available for individuals in acute crisis, there are still not adequate resources available for an increasing number of individuals suffering from acute mental illness, and the region still does not have a mental health triage center.”
Chief Sizer noted that the third anniversary of Mr. Chasse’s death was September 17, and to many, this review process had taken an inordinate length of time. “I am respectful of the community’s desire for this information, but also recognize that speed cannot trump thoroughness and fairness in a review process.” she said. “I am also appreciative of the commitment of all those involved—especially the community members who volunteered so many hours of their time to ensure a comprehensive review was completed.”
“The Portland Police Bureau has become a leader among law enforcement agencies in the United States for its major reform of the officer-involved/in-custody death review process. We have spent years revising our policies and procedures in concert with recommendations by the Police Assessment Resource Center [PARC],” said Chief Sizer. “We are now one of the very few agencies to include community members in our review, and I believe we have greatly benefited from the perspective they provide.”
Please refer to the Bureau’s website, www.portlandpolice.com for prior documents released on James Chasse.
READ – The Police Assessment Resource Center [PARC] Report on Officer-Involved Shootings and In-Custody Deaths, February 2009