Document review: Portland officer not disciplined for 2006 incident

From the Salem Statesman Journal, August 9, 2010

A police training review found a Portland officer’s actions were “inconsistent” with his training when he chased and knocked down a mentally ill man who then died in police custody in 2006, according to internal police documents obtained by The Oregonian.

The review found Officer Chris Humphreys never should have chased James P. Chasse or knocked him to the ground. It said there was no evidence Chasse committed a crime or was a danger to himself or others.

Chasse suffered broken ribs that punctured his lung and led to his death in September 2006.

The documents show Humphreys was never disciplined for those actions, the newspaper reported. The documents had been under court-ordered seal but were released last month after the city council approved a $1.6 million settlement to Chasse’s family.

The new documents for the first time show the bureau’s own Training Division determined Humphreys’ action that day weren’t in line with bureau procedures.

“Although the belief that Mr. Chasse had urinated in public may be reason enough to contact him on the street, initiating the foot pursuit and deploying the knock-down technique, based on the above information, is inconsistent with the Training Division’s Tactical Doctrine,” the training review said.

Tom Steenson, attorney for the Chasse family, said the training review would have been key to their case had it gone to trial.

“How that all got swept under the rug hasn’t been explained,” Steenson said.

Records show the officer’s supervisor dismissed much of the analysis by the Portland Police Bureau’s Training Division.

Then-Transit Division Cmdr. Donna Henderson defended her officers’ actions in her own review. She wrote that Humphreys reasonably believed a crime was committed, citing “indecent exposure,” and thought Chasse was either drunk or on drugs.

Her report “apparently trumped” the training analysis before a Use of Force Review Board evaluating the officer’s actions, city-hired consultants reported.

Humphreys told detectives he believed Chasse had urinated in public, possibly had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, possibly possessed illegal drugs, might have been armed, and ran from police with a look of “sheer terror.”

The Training Division review found those observations did not warrant a foot chase.

Lynnae Berg, then an assistant chief, partly disagreed with the Training Division. She found in her own review that there was probable cause to stop Chasse for urinating in public, but she found the use of the knockdown technique “to be inconsistent with training and out of policy.”

The Use of Force Review Board found the foot pursuit and knockdown of Chasse were within policy.

Humphreys, who is now on disability leave, did not appear before the Use of Force Review Board examining Chasse’s death. He submitted a statement saying he didn’t attend for “the health and welfare of my family.”
He called the case a tragic accident.

“We have all heard the rhetoric — ’a failed mental health system, failed medical response, failed police training.’ Whatever may be, please, I ask only that you look at this situation with an objective eye,” he wrote.

READ – Documents Show Chasse Cops Acted Improperly, Portland Mercury, August 8, 2010