Why So Much Attention on the Police?

Mental health advocates, and friends and colleagues of persons with mental illness and addiction, especially those who’ve come recently to this web site, may wonder about it’s preoccupation with police accountability issues.

A brief explanation. In September 2006 James Chasse was beaten by three police officers in a busy Portland streetcorner in front of dozens of witnesses. James had schizophrenia, and for years the Portland police prided themselves on their training to help persons with mental illness. The police ignored his injuries for over an hour and James died in the back of a police car.

No one has been held accountable for what happened to James Chasse. What happened to James is not typical, but the response from the City, the County, and from the ambulance service, undermined the credibility of political leaders and convinced a city that police could get away with murder.

Since this incident, we’ve asked for justice, for clear information from the city, county, and police bureau, and held those responsible accountable for James’ brutal death.

The City of Portland and its police bureau tried to ignore what happened to James, so we’ve been the stalking horse, successfully repelling dozens of attempts extinguish public debate. In the summer of 2009 the County settled with the Chasse family for over $900,000. A civil trial is scheduled for the City and it’s police bureau in June.