Chief Sizer Recommends Suspending Officer In Chasse Case

From, September 23 2009

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, has recommended that one of the officers involved in the arrest of James Chasse — who died in police custody — be suspended.

The recommendation comes as Sizer released the findings of the police Use of Force Review Board Wednesday, but not the actual report.

James Chasse died on September 17th — three years ago.

Two Portland officers and a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy chased him after one of them thought he was urinating in the street.

Chasse was 42 and suffered from schizophrenia.

Officers knocked him to the ground and then struggled to handcuff him.

The coroner’s report found he suffered dozens of broken bones and abrasions.

Chasse was taken to jail, where medical staff there suggested he be transported to the hospital. He died in the back of a cruiser on the way.

The case has been a call to action for mental health advocates, who are troubled by the way some sick people have been dealt with by police. Chasse’s family has filed a civil law suit, so Sizer and other parties are not answering questions.

In a written statement, however, Sizer says: “Many times, a police officer is the first responder to a person in mental crisis. We remain committed to ensuring our training and partnerships with mental health professionals remain solid.”

But Jason Renaud with the Mental Health Association of Portland, says Sizer is trying to control the message by releasing findings but not the complete report.

Jason Renaud: “This is not an investigation report, this is just a press release trying to ameliorate the hard feelings about what happened to James Chasse. But we asked for the internal investigation to be finished and to be published. That hasn’t happened.”

Sizer says the main findings of the investigation are that officers acted in line with police bureau policy.

She says the Use of Force Review Board found officers had been told by paramedics that Chasse showed no signs of medical distress.

Renaud says that’s one of the interesting findings in Sizer’s statement.

Jason Renaud: “Those EMT’s are the check and balance. They’re the fail safe that didn’t work.”

American Medical Response, the ambulance company that employed the EMTs who responded to the scene, failed to respond to requests for comment on the findings.

The company is named in the Chasse family’s civil suit along with the City of Portland.

Sizer also says the investigation found that one of the officers, Sgt. Kyle Nice, failed to send Chasse to the hospital, as is required when a Taser is used. Sizer has recommended that Nice be suspended, but she did not say for how long.

The police bureau has changed several policies as a result of the case. For example: more than 600 cops have gone through Crisis Intervention Training; and officers now consider things like the severity of a crime before chasing someone.

Multnomah County, which had one deputy on the scene, has settled out of court with the family for about $900,000.

Scott Westerman of the Portland Police union says he is pleased the investigation showed officers followed bureau policy. He released a statement saying: “As more documents in this case are made available, we are confident the findings of this investigation will be affirmed, and the appropriateness of the officers’ actions will be increasingly self-evident.”

In a statement, the Chasse family attorney said Sizer went against a judge’s gag-order by releasing the findings.

He says he’d like the order to be lifted so details that he’s learned could also be made public, adding that: “we will then be in a position to release documents and information about the Police Bureau’s investigations into James’ death which the City does not appear to be releasing.”

The family’s civil case is scheduled to start March 16th in federal court.

Sizer’s recommendation that an officer be suspended will now go through an internal review process.