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Chasse Family Sues Police For Change In Use-Of-Force Policies
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 9, 2007

PORTLAND, OREGON--The family of James P. Chasse, Jr., wants the Portland Police Department to change its use-of-force policies to prevent injuries and deaths like that of the 42-year-old man, who had schizophrenia.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, the family asked the court to order the department to implement a number of changes, including establishing an independent panel to review in-custody deaths; developing an intervention system for officers with records of high rates of physical force; changing its foot-pursuit policy to prevent blows to the head, chest and back; and changing or supplementing training for officers on how to deal with suspects that have psychiatric disabilities.

According to several local news sources, the civil rights suit, which names the city, county, and paramedics as defendants, also seeks an amount of damages to be determined by a jury.

Chasse died on September 17 as officers were taking him from jail to a hospital, less than two hours after they arrested him.

Police reports indicated that officers in an upscale neighborhood saw Chasse acting "oddly", as if he were "either on drugs or had a mental disorder" and then "possibly urinating in the street." Chasse started running once he saw the officers. When the officers caught up with him, one reportedly pushed Chasse in the back, causing him to stumble to the ground. An officer then tumbled on top of him.

Some witnesses said they saw the officers repeatedly shock Chasse with a Taser stun gun, kick him several times, and hog-tie him facedown.

When Chasse stopped moving, officers checked his vital signs and said they were normal. Then they transported him to jail to be booked. But, jail personnel said Chasse needed more medical attention before being jailed. When officers went to transport him to the hospital, Chasse lost consciousness. They were not able to resuscitate him.

Medical examiner Dr. Karen Gunson ruled Chasse's death "accidental", and that he died from "broad-based" blunt force trauma to his chest that took place early in the encounter. She could not determine, however, whether the injuries took place when Chasse fell to the ground or when the officers fell onto him. Gunson added that no drugs were found in Chasse's system.

A second autopsy, which Chasse's family paid for, revealed several broken bones -- including 16 broken ribs, some of which punctured a lung and caused intense internal bleeding.

"The officers engaged in a deliberate cover-up of the brutal assault," claimed the family's attorney Tom Steenson.

In October, a Multnomah County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of Portland Police.

Portland Mayor Tom Potter has publicly apologized for Chasse's death, and has called for a review of arrest data to look for ways to improve how officers interact with suspects that have mental illnesses.

"Chasse lawsuit calls for deadly force policy changes" (The Oregonian)
"Chasse Family Sues" (Portland Mercury)
"James Philip Chasse, Jr." (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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