James Chasse Jr
Nearly four years ago, James Chasse died in the custody of Portland Police officers. I and members of my organization felt horrible about his death. The Portland Police Bureau has spent the last three years identifying what went wrong and fixing those issues through improvements in policy, training and practice.
I am relieved by the settlement of this case. And I believe that the Chasse family deserves compensation for their loss. I hope that James Chasse's family also takes some comfort in the changes that the Portland Police has made. I believe that the settlement will help to bring closure to all involved parties as well as the community.
As Chief of Police, I have been frustrated by my inability to address this matter publicly due to the ongoing litigation. I believe that the Portland Police Bureau and the individual officers have been unfairly demonized. James Chasse's death was a horrible accident and not a "beating death." That's what the Bureau's investigation showed, and nothing in the litigation proved otherwise. The independent witnesses do not describe a rain of blows by Portland Police officers. The medical experts did not agree that the cause of death was the result of a beating. James Chasse's death was an accident, a terrible, tragic accident.
The City Attorney announced today that the City of Portland has reached a tentative settlement with the family of James Chasse, Jr. The settlement will not be final until City Council approves it next week, though I am confident my colleagues will see this outcome as the right thing to do.
The resolution of the Chasse case brings to a close a very troubling chapter in the relationship between the Portland Police Bureau and the residents of this great city. The Chasse family has had to endure a very public examination of what is, at the end of the day, a very personal matter – the death of a loved one and the ability to know the facts, grieve the loss, and begin to move on. Likewise, the Portland Police Bureau has operated under increased scrutiny, especially in cases involving mental illness. And while there have been positive developments in how the police manage issues of use of force and medical transport, we need to be more proactive in making additional improvements.
I want to thank the City Attorney for her commitment to finding an outcome that is amenable to all parties. And I want to thank the Chasse family for their strength and fortitude. I look forward to Council's approval of this settlement, and to opening a new chapter in the relationship between the Portland community and its public safety professionals.