Today marks the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse at the hands of the Portland Police Bureau. The Mental Health Association of Portland, who is spearheading a documentary about the case, asked City Hall today to release the facts on the Police Bureau’s internal report. The organization also released a 4-page report titled: What Happened to James Chasse?
Dear Mayor Adams, Commissioner Saltzman, Chief Sizer,
Today marks the third anniversary of the death of James Chasse.
Attached is a petition, signed by over 250 persons, which asks for the immediate release of the Portland Police Bureau’s internal investigation of what happened to James Chasse, and a report of the status of what happened to James, and what happened after James died, collected by our organization.
Three years ago we began to track the documents and news articles about what happened to James Chasse, and how those responsible responded to his death. What was revealed is silence, delay and obfuscation can be somewhat countered by community concern and an obstinate online presence.
So with no budget for public relations we decided to simply tell the truth over and over and over to anyone who would listen. We posted all publicly-available documents online. We posted all the photographs, videotapes and audio material we could find. We posted and linked to every news story written about James Chasse.
We knew our concerns would be put off by City Hall, there would be no criminal trial, the officers responsible would not be disciplined, and every bureaucratic response would be clouded in budgetary constraints. We knew our cause – transparency – would lose at every opportunity, except in the court of public opinion.
We were determined to tell the truth and not to forget.
Because the truth is James is not the first person with mental illness to be hurt by police officers, but he could have been the last. We’ve created a report of these changes for you and attached it to this letter. The report gives a short list of the positive accomplishments we see as directly related to James Chasse’s death, changes by the Portland Police Bureau, by the City of Portland, by Multnomah County and by the Oregon State legislature.
What the City and County have done is significant and today worth noting. Portland is a safer community because positive changes have occurred.
But important action remains undone. Releasing the internal investigation will illustrate why the process the Police Bureau used to determine whether something was wrong with how Kyle Nice, Christopher Humphreys and Bret Burton killed James Chasse failed to bring justice.
What the internal investigation withholds is the result of the police Use of Force Committee, which met months ago in secret. The Committee found the three officers followed their training and broke no rules and concluded none of the officers used excessive force.
According to the findings of the Grand Jury and Attorney General, they broke no rules and an innocent man is dead. That finding is unacceptable.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
As you enter negotiations for a new contract with the police union this fall, you must find the capacity for a chief to discipline and terminate officers regardless of civil litigation. Impunity is a corrupting influence and must be addressed quickly, directly and publicly.
Roy Silberstein, President, Mental Health Association of Portland