Weekend incident prompts officer suspension

From KATU.com, November 19, 2009

A Portland police officer involved in the death of James Chasse while he was in police custody has been suspended by police Chief Rosie Sizer for an incident this past weekend, she announced at a news conference today.

Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman directed that Officer Chris Humphreys be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into his use of force regarding a 12-year-old girl who police said resisted arrest.

Last Saturday police said Humphreys tried to take the girl into custody who was resisting arrest at a MAX station. He fired a bean bag at her at close range.

The incident started when a large party broke up that involved several known gang members, police said.

Officer Humphreys and another officer responded when police said the girl struck the other officer in the face. That’s when Humphreys fired the bean bag round.

Medics later discovered it bruised her thigh.

After reviewing video from TriMet, Sizer said she was troubled by it.

“Officer Humphreys has been placed on administrative leave, and I have directed the Internal Affairs Division to begin an immediate inquiry into whether or not the use of force was justified given the totality of circumstances and whether application of the beanbag at close range was consistent with Bureau training,” Sizer said.

According to Bureau spokeswoman Mary Wheat there is no hard and fast rule in regards to a specific distance a beanbag gun can be fired. She said it depends on the situation.

The video showed an officer go onto a MAX train, bring the girl off of it, and then the girl swung and punched the officer in the face.

Humphreys will be relieved of his street duties and will have his gun and badge taken away from him, according to a source close to the case.

The police union is upset about the suspension and said it could call for the resignation of Sizer if she doesn’t back their officers.

Portland Police Association spokesman, Scott Westerman, said that Sizer’s actions are about office politics and that Humphreys is being punished for his role in the James Chasse case.

“Had Officer Humphreys not been involved in that. Had they not already had a predetermined bias against Officer Humphreys, we would not be here today,” Westerman said.

Westerman said because of the weekend incident, Humphreys was supposed to get an off-street assignment but then at the last minute Saltzman stepped in and overrode Sizer.

Chasse’s family is suing the city of Portland as well as the Police Bureau regarding his death.

Chasse died Sept. 17, 2006 while police officers were taking him to the hospital with broken ribs. The state medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson ruled that Chasse died of blunt force trauma to the chest.

Investigators said that Chasse’s chest was crushed after Humphreys landed on top of him during a struggle.

Earlier this month Saltzman recommended that Humphreys and Sgt. Kyle Nice should be suspended without pay because, “I believe that their interactions with medical personnel fell short of the Bureau’s legitimate expectations.”

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s office, which was also involved in the Chasse case, settled with the Chasse family but a lawsuit against Portland police is still pending. The police officers were cleared in a use-of-force investigation.