September 17 marks the second anniversary of the beating death of James Chasse. |
On a late Sunday afternoon, September 17, 2006, James Chasse Jr., walking home from a Northwest church, was attacked by and died at the hands of three law officers in downtown Portland in front of a dozen witnesses.
The officers, Portland Police officer Christopher Humphreys, Portland Police Sergeant Kyle Nice and Multnomah County Sheriff deputy Bret Burton, did not know Chasse, he was not suspected of a crime, and he did not provoke them.
When asked why the officers beat Chasse to death, one officer claimed Chasse "acted strange."
Chasse was tackled to the ground, punched, kicked, Tasered repeatedly and hogtied, resulting in 16 broken ribs, a number of abrasions, a broken shoulder, both lungs punctured.
Inexplicably, paramedics cleared Chasse to be taken to jail. Upon seeing his injuries, jail nurses refused to admit Chasse, telling Officers Nice and Humphreys to take Chasse to a hospital.
Instead of administering first aid, calling for an ambulance, or taking Chasse to the nearest trauma unit, the officers tried to take him to a psychiatric hospital eight miles away. He died enroute, less than an hour after the beating.
No grand jury in Portland's history has indicted a police officer for using force. The grand jury did not indict the officers who beat Chasse. The City and County refused to discipline the officers.
Christopher Humphreys was named in a federal lawsuit alleging police brutality that the city settled for $90,000 earlier in 2006. And in instances of use of force, Humphreys in 2006 was tied for No. 2 since the bureau began collecting statistics in 2004.
In response to Chasse's death, the outcry of the Portland community led to changes in city and county procedures and processes.
In November 2006, Mayor Potter, reacting to the outcry, appointed a Mental Health / Public Safety Task Force to study how the mentally ill are cared for in Portland and their interactions with the police.
Increased funding ($290,000) for Project Respond
to hire more staff and create a dedicated unit to partner with law enforcement and respond directly to police referrals.
Police Bureau hired a mental health professional to coordinate the CIT program as well as to provide policy advice on how to work with persons with mental illness. This person has significantly improved both our process of training officers and the quality of training.
Portland police officers no longer transport persons they have injured to jail or hospital.
was spurred by James Chasse's death. The law requires the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to include at least 24 hours of training relating to mental illness utilizing a crisis intervention training model (CIT.)
was directly influenced by James Chasse's death. SB 111 requires every county to create a six member planning authority co-chaired by the District Attorney and Sheriff. The planning authority must create and implement a plan that specifies how city and county law enforcement will respond when a police officer "was a cause in fact of the death of a person." SB 111 requires that the county planning authorities inform the Oregon Department of Justice about such incidents. SB 111 also ensures officers or deputies who cause the death of a person is treated fairly psychologically, professionally, financially and legally.
Portland Police Chief Sizer issued a new Use of Force policy.
Since Chasse's death, with the changes noted above that followed, no similar incidents have occurred in Portland. This remains the enduring tribute to James.
Regardless of these long overdue advances, persons with mental illness, their friends and family members, and citizens of Portland will hold public servants accountable for their actions, and not forget or overlook their mistakes.
James Chasse had a family, a history and a future, friends, neighbors, dreams and hopes. He was an artist, a small shy gentle person, and a person with schizophrenia. His death was merciless, brutal and pointless.
To remember James, and others with mental illness and addiction who died in past years during police action, supporters of the Mental Health Association of Portland will join on September 16 for a political action at the Portland Police Bureau Central Precinct and the Multnomah County Jail.
The action will begin at Noon September 16 and end before dusk. The action will consist of supporters drawing chalk outlines of persons who died during police actions on the sidewalks circling the block. Names, dates of death and perhaps remembrances of those who died will be written on the sidewalks in chalk. As per agreement with the City, all chalk drawings will be removed by the end of the day.
You're invited to participate with this political action. Come at anytime between 10 AM and 6 PM. Bring friends and help remember those who have died.
For more information about James Chasse, see jameschasse.blogspot.com
To learn about a documentary film being made in Portland about the life and death of James Chasse, see www.alienboy.org
For more information about the Mental Health Association of Portland, see our web site at www.mentalhealthportland.org