September 29th, 2009 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

City Council to Hear Pleas on Chasse Case


The Mental Health Association of Portland tomorrow will take its pleas regarding the death of James Chasse Jr. directly to the City Council.

Jason Renaud, head of the nonprofit advocacy group, says there's a perception that the police have enjoyed impunity since Chasse, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in police custody in 2006.

"The message delivered is a brutal beating and death of a person with a mental illness, even one with caregivers, friends, family, a home, a clean record, is acceptable within the Portland Police Bureau," Renaud says in his prepared remarks.

The remarks were released today in the wake of Chief Rosie Sizer announcing her decision last week that the officers' use of force was acceptable, based on recommendations from the police bureau's Use of Force Review Board.

Renaud will ask the council to take a seven-step course of action, including releasing the full internal police investigation and moving the police involved — Officer Chris Humphreys, Officer Bret Burton and Sgt. Kyle Nice — off patrol duty.

Sizer ruled that Nice's failure to call an ambulance after Chasse was Tasered was the only violation of bureau policy. She proposed an unpaid suspension as punishment.

Here's a full transcript of the remarks Renaud plans to make before the City Council:
My name is Jason Renaud. I am the volunteer secretary for the Mental Health Association of Portland. Our mission is to help persons with mental illness speak up and speak out, a community which asks you to rebuild the respect and trust damaged between the Portland Police Bureau and persons with mental illness.

I'd like to talk about impunity, when a person or an institution has been exempted from punishment.

Impunity is a corrosive to public administration, and extremely hard for partisans to distinguish from righteousness, or understand the damage it causes. It occurs when there is a wide variance between what is found just, and what is believed true.

The action which enables impunity to flourish is when persons in positions of authority claim due process equals justice, and somehow [in]justice always prevails.

Our organization and thousands of people in Portland believe injustice has prevailed, that a fair hearing on what happened to James Chasse has not occurred.

The final opportunity for intervention was a internal review of the officer's actions, and a decision whether those actions were within the policy of the police bureau. After three years the bureau distributed a press release citing reasons their review was late. A minor technicality was found, so minor punishment may occur.

What's occurred is impunity. The message delivered is a brutal beating and death of a person with a mental illness, even one with caregivers, friends, family, a home, a clean record, is acceptable within the Portland Police Bureau.

It should be unacceptable to you. Impunity undermines and dissolves the most important tools police officers need - trust and respect.

Here are actions which can rebuild trust and respect.

1. Release the full internal investigation of what happened to James Chasse - not a press release

2. Move the three officers involved with the death of James Chasse - Humphrey, Nice and Burton - off patrol duty

3. Make a goal to reducing the use of Tasers on persons with mental illness by 50% per year for the next five years

4. Reopen the Chief's Forum

5. Form a joint effort by local governments and local police bureaus with mental health advocates to seek full funding for mental health services from the state legislature

6. Open a sincere, staffed and ongoing public meeting between police senior staff and persons with mental illness

7. Release the Crisis Intervention Team curriculum to public inspection, release data about police encounters with persons with mental illness

The right response to impunity comes from the top down. It's your responsibility to act.

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