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Inhumanity at the Multnomah County Jail: James Chasse Video Evidence

Holy shit. I just saw what must surely be the most despicable thing I've witnessed in a very, very long time. While I do not recommend oregonlive or the bOregonian to anyone, I am attaching a link to an article that appeared there, because within that article, there is a link to the video surveillance footage from the Multnomah County Jail on the night that James Chasse was murdered by the Portland police.

 link to www.oregonlive.com
The video is 13 minutes long, and much of it is hard to follow. But if you listen carefully, you can hear officer Christopher Humphreys describing how he tackled Chasse... something Humphreys apparently "forgot" about in his official statement three days later, when he was interviewed about the killing. In front of the camera, Humphreys mimes the action of grabbing Chasse and throwing him to the ground, as if it were all just in a night's work.

While there is undoubtedly a lot of meat in that videotape for lawyers to chew on for a long time to come, the thing that struck me as I watched was the unimaginable callousness of the police officers and the deputies in the jail. A man lay wounded and dying at their feet, while they laughed and joked and made small talk with each other. At the end of the footage, a horrific moment: Chasse is clumsily dragged through the room by his arms and legs, undoubtedly rupturing whatever thin threads of life were left in him. He is being dragged face down. His head is hanging helplessly. At times, one of the bullies loses his grip and drags him through the air by the chains around his ankles. There is a "spit sock" covering Chasse's face, making it impossible for him to see, orient himself, or as we later learned, even to breathe. And he is screaming, crying out in pain. The thugs dragging him away never even respond. Indeed, they seem not even to notice.

I'm sure these people pride themselves on having "seen it all." I'm sure they wear, like a badge of honor, their ability to shut out the cries, the suffering, the pleas for dignity and reason, that their "perps" come through their doors with. Probably, each one of their "inmates" is the same to them: A thing. A social disease. Someone to control. Someone not worth caring about. And it shows.

These deputies and police officers clearly recognize that Jim Chasse has been severely injured. In point of fact, he had every one of his ribs broken by the hyper-aggressive officers who beat him. His chest was crushed. He was in agonizing pain. Maybe they did not know all of the gory details yet then, but they knew very well that he was badly injured. Any idiot could have seen that. He needed medical attention. And yet, they brutally dragged him around, face down, like a sack of potatoes. They ignored his cries. They failed to show him even the smallest human dignity. They treated him like a thing, not like a being. There is no humanity left at all in these thugs. These are people that our community is paying a salary to, people we are asked to teach our children to look up to. And LOOK at them. Just look.

The camera looks on them as they commit an unspeakable crime against humanity. One small, vulnerable, innocent shred of humanity, dying alone among strangers, in the cold fluorescent glare of the police state. It is a crime that they've probably all excused themselves for ever since. They've all told their families and their friends and the people they drink beer with how they were not to blame. They've pretended for years, now, that what happened to Jim Chasse was a fluke, an isolated incident, something that could not be helped. They have been lying all this time.

It is almost a side note at this point, but remember, Chasse never even committed any crime that night. And yet, just the degradation of being in the custody of the police state is enough for them to convince themselves he does not deserve the simplest human kindness. I actually believe they think that society should thank them for this. For being "tough on crime." Or criminals. Or just people picked up by the police....

What might a little compassion have done for James Chasse in that hour of need? If only one of them had even just leaned down and taken the spit sock from his face... If someone had called for medical assistance at the jail... If they had lifted him with a stretcher rather than dragging him around by his arms and legs... But there was no compassion from these monsters. There never is.

While you watch that damning, damning video, think of the hundreds and hundreds of other people who pass through the doors there at that jail. Think how many of them are there for no reason. How many are mistreated. How many are injured, degraded, tortured by this machine. When you hear Jim Chasse cry out, listen to the silent echoes of all the screams that no one outside that jail ever heard.

The only thing out of the ordinary about what happened to Jim Chasse is that he died, and that anyone gives a damn. Even if we did not already know this, it's clear from watching the video footage: Their mindless degradation of the man dying at their feet is a well-practiced ritual. They feed it in each other. It's a systemic disease that we've all allowed to grow for much too long. Even if we did not know about the deputies who brag about beating people for nothing and then pinning false charges on them. Even if we did not know how many people have died for no reason in the custody of police, or in the jail, in this city. Even then, we could still see the symptoms of the disease written all over their impassive, thoughtless faces. We could still hear it in their bland, lifeless voices as they chat mindlessly while James Chasse cries for mercy that does not come.

But we do know. We do. Jim Chasse had done nothing wrong that night. He had the nerve to simply exist, in a part of town that has gentrified. It was a part of town that he (and I) called home once, long before the condos or the Whole Foods or the Blue Hour moved in. But now, the shiny new businesses and the shiny new people have moved in like a rash, like colonies in a petri dish. They have made it "their neighborhood" now. And they feel righteous and justified about the way people like Jim Chasse are treated there at their bidding. And their minions in blue uniforms feel justified to: They feel it is their right to mete out even the death penalty on the dark streets as they see fit.

no need for video 12.Nov.2008 17:17


With the author's clear writing, there's no need for me to view the video. The whole thing makes me sick. These police officers are monsters. They ought to be helping an injured person get medical attention. I will never trust a Portland police officer.