One of the two Portland police officers involved in the struggle that killed James Chasse Jr. is among the bureau's top users of force, a Willamette Week review of police department data has found.
The official police investigation concluded that the injuries leading to Chasse's death on Sept. 17 were caused by Officer Christopher Humphreys. Reports conflict as to whether Humphreys knocked Chasse to the ground and then accidentally fell on top of him, crushing his ribs, or whether he intentionally tackled him. In addition, citizen witnesses have told the media that Humphreys, with other officers, punched and kicked Chasse while trying to restrain him.
A WW analysis of Portland Police Bureau data, which covers roughly the past two and a half years, shows that whichever account is right, Humphreys, a seven-year veteran, has used force more often than almost all of the other the 785 officers in the database.
A few years ago, the bureau started requiring that police officers file a report every time they used physical force against a suspect—whether it's shooting, hitting with a baton, squirting pepper spray or deploying a Taser. More than 8,500 "use of force reports" were logged as of this week.
WW's analysis shows that for overall uses of force, Humphreys is tied for No. 2 among all officers, with a total of 78 incidents.
Police say officers' uses of force shouldn't be examined without taking the officer's job duties into consideration. Humphreys works as a transit police officer and frequently makes the physical arrests of suspects identified by undercover officers in drug missions around the TriMet lines, says his supervisor, Cmdr. Donna Henderson.
"It's different than the general police department," she says. "We're usually on the system or watching the system. There's usually always something going on. So his stats in that area would be extremely high."
Humphreys' attorney, Steven Myers, declined to comment.
Police also say the overall numbers can seem higher than they really are in terms of actual force used, because officers must fill out use-of-force reports even if they only pointed a gun or a Taser at someone. So, WW took a closer look at just physical force and found that Humphreys was in the Top 5 of three separate categories.
* For blunt "impact" strikes (which include hand, foot, baton and flashlight strikes), Humphreys is tied for No. 1 among the 295 officers who reported using such strikes. He reported using strikes 25 times. All but one of those was with his hands and/or feet. The remaining instance was marked "other."
* For physical force used to restrain suspects (such as "take downs," "pressure points" and "control holds," but not including just placing a suspect in handcuffs), Humphreys is tied for No. 2 among the 422 officers who reported using that type of force.
* Among officers whose uses of force caused injury to suspects, Humphreys is No. 5 out of 413 officers who reported injuring suspects. Suspects were injured in 17 of his 78 incidents—that's more than one injury for every five uses of force and higher than the overall average. Of those 17 injuries, two suspects were taken to a hospital.
Sgt. Kyle Nice, the other Portland officer involved in Chasse's death, had a total of 17 uses of force, including five involving physical force. Two suspects were injured, one of whom was taken to a hospital. Of 785 officers, 175 used force at least as many times as Nice. The other officer involved in the Chasse death, Brad Burton, was not covered in the Portland police database because he is a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy.