Chief Releases Chasse Findings (UPDATED with response from Chasse family)

From Willamette Week, September 23 2009

More than three years after the death of James Chasse Jr., Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer today released the findings of an investigation into the death.

The Police Use of Review Force Board in its findings concluded that the “initiation and termination of the foot pursuit of Mr. Chasse did not violate any Bureau policy and that the force used during the struggle to stop, control and handcuff Mr. Chasse was within policy.”

The board also concluded that one of three officers at the Chasse scene, Sgt. Kyle Nice “did not adhere to the Bureau’s directive requiring EMS to transport to the hospital individuals in certain situations following Taser deployment.”

Sizer says she agreed with those findings on Nice and “in regard to the recommendation concerning the post Taser medical transport issue, found that the sergeant involved is subject to the disciplinary process in the form of a suspension.”

In the chief’s statement this morning, she acknowledged how long the review process had taken. “I am respectful of the community’s desire for this information, but also recognize that speed cannot trump thoroughness and fairness in a review process.” she said.

The police union, the Portland Police Association (which announced these same findings months ago), has put out a statement that says in part, “The findings of the investigation released today reaffirm our belief that the officers involved were within policy as it relates to their use of force in this incident. 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.”

Jason Renaud of the Mental Health Association of Portland, said “Our response is that there are no winners today, that what we have learned is that the Use of Force Policy and administrative policy don’t protect people with a mental illness from violence at the hands of the Portland police.”

UPDATE: Tom Steenson, an attorney representing the Chasse family, released a statement this afternoon noting that the protective order obtained by the city and other defendants in the lawsuit prevents the release of investigative documents in the case.

“As a result of this protective order, the Chasse family and their attorneys have been unable to release documents and other information which they have learned in the course of the lawsuit about the Police Bureau’s investigations into James’ death. Unfortunately, that remains true today, preventing the Chasse family and their attorneys from commenting on the subject matter of the Police Bureau’s News Release today and from releasing documents and information about those investigations which it appears the City has not released to the public.”

“The Chasse family and their attorneys are very sorry that they cannot comment on these events at this time. However, they are taking immediate steps to ask the Court to set aside the protective order which the City and Chief Sizer have violated today by their release of documents and information which are subject to the order. If the Court grants our renewed motion, 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 and to comment, like the City and Chief Sizer have done today, on those investigations and related matters.”