More than four years after James P. Chasse Jr. died in police custody, the Portland Police Bureau today released a voluminous set of internal investigative and training documents that had previously been sealed by a federal court judge during the course of a pending lawsuit.
Chasse, 42, died in police custody from broad-based blunt force trauma to the chest Sept. 17, 2006, after officers chased him and knocked him to the ground in the Pearl District. Paramedics came to the scene but did not take Chasse to the hospital. Instead, police drove him to jail, but jail staff refused to book him. Police then drove him in a police cruiser to the hospital and he died on the way.
A Portland police training review found Officer Christopher Humphreys never should have chased Chasse or knocked him to the ground because there was no evidence he committed a crime or was a danger to himself or others. The review concluded that both the police foot chase — which Police Bureau documents describe as “one of the most dangerous police actions that officers can engage in” — and the knockdown of Chasse were “inconsistent” with bureau training.
Yet the bureau never disciplined Humphreys for either of those breaches, according to the internal police documents. Humphreys’ then-Transit police Cmdr. Donna Henderson wrote up her own review, in defense of her officers’ actions.
After Portland’s City Council approved $1.6 million to settle the federal wrongful death suit brought by Chasse’s family, a federal judge this summer modified his protective order on the internal documents, allowing their release.
The records consist of the bureau’s training review, internal affairs review including interviews with officers, paramedics, civilian witnesses and the state medical examiner, and documents from the Use of Force and Performance Review boards.