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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 28, 2006 2:35 PM. The previous post in this blog was Cogen, Frederick, and Chasse. The next post in this blog is Feel-good photo. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nobody told Potter

KGW's got a story up about how no one informed Portland Mayor Tom Potter of the police killing of unarmed civilian Jim Chasse on Sep. 17 until after the medical examiner's report on Chasse's death was released last Friday, Sep. 22. The mayor was on vacation in Germany that whole week. (As mayor, Potter runs the Police Bureau.)

Potter's says he's unhappy with the decision by his staff, and I can see why. Charges of police brutality had been filed and reported in The Oregonian on the night of Wednesday the 20th. What was his staff thinking at that point? This isn't important? "On Friday when the medical examiner's report came back and the cause of death was not what we anticipated, we made the decision to call the mayor at that time." Had they thought that the medical examiner was going to find drugs in Chasse's system, and that this could be used to downplay the entire incident? If so, they thought wrong.

I'm curious, however, as to why Potter, whose every word on this incident will be carefully crafted, is now talking about the staff notification issue to the media. It's a somewhat interesting sideshow, but a sideshow nonetheless.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, the mayor is going to be able to do to wipe out the mean streak that runs through the Police Bureau. Word on the street is that he's afraid to take on the police officers' union. I hope that isn't true.

Comments (24)

I don't think it's just his staff's fault. I mean, I understand the desire to get away from the office, but c'mon, Tom, you're the mayor of a major American city. Didn't you think it might be a good idea to spend a quick 10 minutes on the front page of a local news website, just to see what was going on?? Do you really have that little curiosity about what's happening back home?

And, seriously, he should fire his chief of staff. If she really waited seven days to tell him about this, her political instincts are horrible, and she's likely to get him into more trouble down the road.

Dave J - you make an excellent post. When I travel, either vacation or business, it's just a natural habit to check back on a website or two to see what's the haps back in Stumptown. For the mayor not to do so is incredible to me. And is he saying that in any conversations that he had with staff members during his absence that it never came up at all? Something doesn't quite wash here...

Hmmm..... Visioning? Sounds more like blinders.

Dave is spot-on, except for one glaring omission: Grampy blames his staff for not notifying him. The blame rests squarely with him. As Larry correctly notes, it's generally pretty easy to find a place with 'Net access. And actually, it's even easier to pick up a phone. Grampy chose to do neither, then has the audacity to come back and shove it to his staff.

Has the man never heard of the term, "proactive"?

Doesn't anyone else think it's rather classless for the mayor to blame staff for this? Come on, man, if they didn't inform you, it's probably YOUR fault for not setting up ground rules for the kinds of things that they should call you about. These are not exactly highly paid people in the first place. It's the MAYOR's job to be informed, first and foremost. And there are ample ways to do that. And by the way, uh, didn't the same thing happen while he was chief of police -- on that Mexican vacation?

Grampy chose to do neither, then has the audacity to come back and shove it to his staff.

I simply cannot understand how the mayor of a major city can let himself go 7 days without finding out what's happening back home. It boggles the mind.

It is not unlike Bush's comments about bin Laden: "Nobody told me." Well, damn, didn't you ASK?

I'm still not comfortable with his discussing this with reporters. That doesn't sound like Tom Potter to me. Something's not right here.

How exactly does that not "sound like Tom Potter" to you?

I am just curious.

The guy has never seemed exactly politically savvy, other than manufacturing the $5 plan that was primarily responsible for his election (well, that and "anybody but Francesconi"). Look at Tram Adams, for Pete's sake, that guy does nothing BUT run for mayor. He is slick enough to bilk anyone out of anything, but Potter is well, just too Grampy.

I am of the subjective opinion that Potter receives an uncanny amount of negative press, or more accurately, tepid press.
Even the Cully Neighborhood News dug into him in its most recent edition, as he was touring an unpaved street (NE 62nd off Fremont, I believe), with the following quote:

"Mayor Potter wondered why the City could not just 'put gravel down to fill the potholes.'"

He is a genius, no one else has ever wondered that!

It seems that when politicos are focused on hallucinogenic visioning, it takes at least seven days to come down and refocus on real world issues.

Personally, I think this whole line is BS. When he was Chief, didn't he claim the same thing when a police shooting happened when he was on vacation?

Check the phone records in his office for the period he was gone. Did his staff not call him at all during those five days. Okay, I'll trust you on this one. Any calls from his office occured, I'm calling bullshit.

"Ignorant chief executive" is a popular excuse these days; Enron and HP are notable current examples. People keep saying that government should be run more like a business... maybe he took the advice seriously.

Snark aside, though, I can cut him a little slack. If the system were running correctly, the Mayor should not need to get involved. But it seems amply apparent that the system is not behaving properly. Now that he's aware of the situation, he should start kicking ass, taking names, and applying a little blunt trauma of his own. It'll be interesting to see if he does.

His first statement did not have a kickass tone, to be sure.

(This is long, and a little over the top, I know, but it may be useful to a reader or two. Forgive me.)

From the KGW site quoting Potter: "This [Chasse's death] is not an issue just for Portland police, but rather one that calls for a solution that includes our correctional system, medical and mental health providers...".

Those words are an attempt at exculpatory spin -- pure and simple. It's meant to deflect responsibilty and put the masses to sleep. It's cooked up by PR guys, distributed to the local light-weight news outlets, and mindlessly passed on to the public as if it were a new drug. Is there no one in the media with a brain? A sense of courage? The ablity to detect, comprehend and reject propaganda?

Mr. Chasse's beating and death had nothing whatsoever to do with "our correctional system, medical and mental health providers...". It exclusively had to do with police employees. Keep your eyes on the ball.

It also has nothing to do with whether Potter was in Germany or on the moon. Since returning to his PDX command post, he's done nothing other than to deliver his assigned lines in Act 2 rather than Act 1! Granted, he slapped someone's wrist for not telephoning earlier? How is that relevant? Who cares? Certainly not Mr. Chasse. This is all a calculated diversion to display a mayor in theatrical pose that we are meant to interpret as indignant executive action. But, in fact, his ire is aimed in the direction of at his major domo, not at wrongdoers. Isn't that just part of a major domo's job description. Incredible! Shame on anyone with an IQ over 80 who is taken in by this charade.

Here's what I want to know:

1) Who broke the ribs? What did he think was happening when he felt and heard the cracking? Did he think there was a connection between the feel and sound, and Mr. Chasse's mysterious "problem with breathing".

2) What precisely does it mean that EMTs "cleared" Mr. Chasse to go to jail? Who is paying the EMT/ambulance bill? What comprised the EMT evaluation? One presumes pressing on ribs, listening to lung fields, taking vital signs? What were those signs in the field? What qualifies an EMT to diagnosis rib fractures, pneumothorax or hemothorax in the field via physical examination? Is there any sort of conflict of interest or financial insentive regarding "clearing" for jail versus going to a hospital when police call EMTs for this purpose?

3) What precisely were the physical findings obtained by the jail nurse? Were they so minor that a police car to Adventist was reasonable rather than faster transport to one of the much closer trauma centers at OHSU or Emanuel?

4) Did Mr. Chasse die from a pneumothorax or from a hemothorax? Did he die a terrifying asphyxic death struggling in the police car to get a breath? Or, did he die from bleeding to death, bleeding into his chest? Either way, of course, OHSU or Emanuel ER's could have saved Mr. Chasse's life fairly simply, if he'd been swiftly taken to either place at the moment this picture was taken:

Finally, if there's any connection between Mr. Chasse's death and "medical and mental health providers" as Mr. Potter asserts, it's that the police employees (and perhaps contractees) in this case sadly thought of making use of them too slowly.

Grampy does vacation well!

WoodburnBob--you are right, of course, on the specifics of this case. The last hours of Jim Chasse's life were in the hands of Portland cops, and they let him down, pure and simple.

But you're wrong to overlook the fact that the way we handle people with mental illness is deeply, deeply flawed, and probably culminated in the events that killed Jim Chasse. Out for a walk in my neighborhood tonight I saw an older guy, about 55, obviously homeless, obviously mentally deranged, sitting on someone's front lawn, muttering darkly to himself. What to do? Who to call if not the cops? What would I do if it was my house, with my kids inside? And, in this same neighborhood, I've seen the cops dealing with the same guys (homeless and deranged) dozens of times.

I feel bad for the cops--they get called out, haul these guys downtown, and then hours later they're back at the Fred Meyer screaming in the parking lot. Nothing gets resolved, and nothing gets done except a lot of cops waste their time. Certainly these guys don't get the help they need, and the neighborhoods don't get rid of the problem caused by people who need treatment and care. It's a lose-lose-lose, all the way around. So when someone says that this gets at the core of how we integrate mental health treatment with public safety, I think they are absolutely right.

That being said, none of that should exonerate the cops who beat Chasse up and then neglected him as he lay dying on the sidewalk.

I agree with WoodburnBob...a complete investigation addressing just those specific questions is needed. A Grand Jury probe into all of the cops, not just the one doing the kicking, but also the supervisors and other cops standing around.

And if the Iraqi prisoner mistreatment culpability went up the chain, then maybe that is where this might lead to as well. Is the a "culture of death" within the PDX Blue that needs to be addressed?

And finally, what were the health care providers thinking? Are they responsible, or can they just stand around with the eyes wide shut, hands over their ears?

Potter always seems to be out of town and totally out of touch when big things like this happen. Remember back when he was chief he was on vacation (and did not immediately return as he should have) when his officers accidentially shot and killed Nathan Thomas.

I'm delighted to see this topic still has some life in it.

Dave J: You're quite correct in everything you say. What's happened the last 30 years to how Oregon cares for -- or even just manages the needs of -- it's chronically mentally ill is a deeply sad, unjust and pathetically flawed disgrace.

You do know of course that while the state and counties got out of the business of "mental health" these past few decades, they handed some of the money over via big-promises, low-bid contracts to corporations ... abdicating responsibility along the way, of course. "Gee, how could we have known"?

The worst of the cases, those who'd have been at Dammasch 20 years ago, were placed briefly in "nursing" and "foster" homes as they made the descent to your neighbor's front lawn. Nobody much cared when they "wandered" away in the direction of the central city; those writing checks to the "care facilities" weren't all that displeased either though, I suppose.

If one's public annoyance level reaches a certain threshold now, one will go to jail or even prison...there's no other place! This is what is meant by the "criminalization of the mentally ill".

Those in control of government are directly responsible for this. It is no accident. For them to point fingers among themselves now is the zenith of hyprocrisy and hubris.

To take this a little further: A corporation called Cascadia presumably still collects all the county and state contract moneys to provide TOTAL and comprehensive service for Multnomah County's roving chronicaly mentally ill.

If the guy on the lawn is bothering you, you are supposed to call Cascadia, not the police. The contracts say they will come and solve the problems 24/7. Why didn't the police in Mr. Chasse's case do that? Who knows. Basically, when the police do respond to "mental" calls, I think they are simply trying to be nice guys to even take the calls in the first place.

Look, read through this Web page or explore the whole site:

If the Chasse case had anything to do with mental illness, why were the police even involved? Why wasn't the Cascadia Crisis Team "chasing" Mr. Chasse rather than the police? I doubt very much that they'd have had to resort to knocking him to the pavement, beating him, kicking him, or fracturing his ribs. Let's remember, Mr. Chasse's alledged infraction of city ordinances was at most urinating where he shouldn't!

Underlying Cascadia's business arrangement with the state and county, there would exist contractual language with the state and county detailing specifics about what Cascadia says it will order to receive the county and state contract moneys. Gee, if they aren't doing what they said they'd do, why are they still receiving any money? Are the state and county bureaucratics who are responsible for those contracts actually tracking any of this? Perhaps they are out of contact on a perpetual German vacation.

Let me suggest a simple experiment (any local "investigative journalists" listening):

If you see a chronically mentally ill person you think needs immediate attention, whip out your cell phone, speed dial Cascadia at (503) 238-0769, tell them you need the MOBILE OUTREACH TEAM immediately. See what happens. If you don't get what's needed, speed dial the governor, the state mental health division and the country commissioners and ask them what the hell's going on. Isn't this about public money for contracted and promised services that aren't being delivered?

(Anyway, thanks again for trying to keep this topic alive. Sorry again about my verbosity.)

Let me set some of the record straight.

We were in a small village (i.e., not a single cyber cafe') visiting my 87-year old grandmother, who doesn't want her life complicated with all of that computer stuff. She has her telephone, mailbox and fax machine, and that suits her just fine.

Tom took with him from Portland an international cellphone and checked its ability to contact Portland and checked in with staff as soon as we arrived. That cellphone never left his hip, until he went to bed each night, and, at that time, it was re-charging.

It wasn't until we were sitting down to dinner with relatives in a neighboring small village on Saturday, Sept. 23, that Tom received his first call from the office.

That is that. I could go into other stuff, such as conclusions and suppositions, but I've decided that I would only report on the facts.

Thanks for clarifying Mayor's Wife. It must be tough being the loved one of a public figure whose policies, practices, and vacations are scrutinized. However, this is the reality of high profile public service. I applaud your loyalty, factual rendition, and self control in rising above the fray.

Amazing how a few additional facts can change your opinion on a situation, eh?

Not mine. My opinion is that the question of when the mayor was notified is an interesting, but largely irrelevant, sideshow. And Potter's calling attention to the timing of his notification fits into a familiar pattern of police apologists changing the subject.

The police apparently trampled an unarmed, innocent man to death on nothing more than "suspicion of public urination."

Precisely, Jack! And, concise and succinctly so. A hardy "keep it up" to you.


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