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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 26, 2006 1:27 PM. The previous post in this blog was One last question. The next post in this blog is Whatever it takes. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Chasse "accident"

There's a big furor over the medical examiner's autopsy finding that the death of Jim Chasse, who died in Portland police custody on Sep. 17, was "accidental." The Trib's all over it here, and b!X is pretty worked up about it, too.

What are the distinctions, in the medical examiner's rule book, among death by "accident," "homicide," and "legal intervention"? Particularly, between "accident" and "homicide"? Does it have to do with whether the death was caused by another person, as b!X states? Does it have to do with that person's intent, as the M.E.'s office vaguely implies?

It seems to me that there's often no way to determine either of those categories of facts from an autopsy -- intent in particular. And with broad-based blunt force trauma to the chest, which is listed as the cause of death here, what are the possibilities? That the broken ribs and internal bleeding occurred if and when Chasse "fell"? Or when the officers reportedly jumped on him, beat him, tasered him, and kicked him?

I think the medical examiner needs to get out of the business of making this call. Or at least, to be given the option to not make a call when the autopsy doesn't reveal a clear answer. Apparently, there's no way to conclude from this autopsy whether the officers or the supposed "fall" physically caused the injury, much less what was going on in the officers' minds. Certainly you can't conclude in the officers' favor at this point (although I suspect the official exoneration won't be far behind).

In any event, maybe Grampy needs to come home from Oktoberfest now.

Comments (11)

I don't mean to divert attention from the James Chasse death at all, but there's something else about the ME's authority that surprises and concerns me (to put it mildly).
Is it true that ORS empowers the ME to determine "legal intervention" on behalf of fellow employees of the same state agency that pays his/her salary? Does that seem just wrong to anybody besides me?

I understand that this applies only to death certificates, but suspect that such a finding might impact other proceedings in the same case.

To put it bluntly, it doesn't seem to me that it's any of the ME's damn business to proclaim "legal intervention" before any court has a say. We need to change that section of ORS and the funding source of the ME's office.

Pearl Jim

Pearl Jim has a point, but that kind of conflict of interest is all over local government in Oregon. The Mayor also oversees the Portland Police Bureau, and therefore Mayor Potter got the last word on what happened to Chief "Foxy" Foxworth, for but one high-level example.

I'm sure perusing the archives here at Jack's site would turn up many, many more examples.

It's one area that I see as ripe for reform. Although the political machine would fight it, tooth and nail, I'm sure.

One of Ted Wheeler's comments (not on the record as far as I know, but to a friend of mine I trust) during his campaign is that he would see about instituting a position at Multnomah County that would provide oversight, someone outside of the political process. I have no idea how that would work, or even if it could work, but I at least applaud the idea.

The ME has nothing to gain from a cover-up in this case. It seems very likely they have certain criteria that must be met in order to rule the cause of death is "accidental" instead of "legal intervention."

I think it would be a mistake to suggest the usual suspects value transparency more than their dominant public policy roles. The "conflicts of interest" are precisely those opportunities where they can influence the most desirable outcome for their core consitituencies (unions, west hills mafia, developers, Democrats, bureaucrats, supporters, etc.).

In my experience, citizen involvement is welcome to the degree it corresponds with the preordained "progressive outcome" school of thought (bikes good/cars bad...train tracks good/road improvement increases good/tax sunsets bad...personal responsibility bad/collective blame good).

Now we'll toss a few cops into the volcano of "excessive force"... A boyz-n-blu sacrifice to quell the spirits of a gentle soul who died in the back of a squad car, a bereaved family, and lot's of witnesses who are shocked...SHOCKED to see police officers using force against a fellow citizen.

The ME has nothing to gain from a cover-up in this case.

Other than her budget and her job.

using force against a fellow citizen.

Extremely excessive and cruel force.

Jack, I'm really glad you continue to cover Mr. Chasse's violent death while in police custody.

Thinking about the terror he must have experienced still sickens me. It was senseless and out of all proportion to any reasonable community need or rational professional code.

Certainly what is said to have been done by those involved is deeply shameful, actually sounds twisted and rageful and sadistic at its core, and I would think ought to be criminal.

That it is so far being defended actively by the police union and passively by public employees scares the bejesus out of me, because it means the weakest among us are not safe from either group.

I should think what happens with this case should set the standard of police ethics and conduct for a good long while. Certainly, it will be a long while before I stop looking at a Portland policeman without suspicion and fear.

Indeed, today I would be in favor of abolishing the police force altogether, unless they can show they recognize the significance of this needless and profoundly disturbing single death.

I believe you can find a broad coalition that deplores "excessive force"...The difficulty is to define it in some objective fashion: not unlike pornography.

'I know it when I see it' is difficult to put into law, and not everybody "sees it" from the same perspective.

Abolishing the police force altogether? Spoken like somebody who never came home to find your back door hanging off it's hinges. Or never saw the relief on a woman's face when the officer told her husband he was going to jail for domestic assault.

Let the facts come out, and the chips fall where they may. Even the cops should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Mr. T, I don't have a problem with excessive or extreme force, if, for example, someone's life is endangered. I would though find it a bit disingenuous if you are suggesting by "facts" that those involved in the death suspected Mr. Chasse was hidding a loaded Uzi in his crouch. Are you saying that what I "see" as criminal abuse, you see as appropriate and justified use of force? What conceivable facts do you think could "come out" so "chips" fall where they should rather than "where they may".

On the topic of dismantling the police, are you suggesting there is evidence that the rate (or outcome) of home burglaries or domestic violence is altered in PDX by the existence of the PDX Police? Please point me to an online source for hard data supporting such assertions.

Even if it were true, would it justify beating someone to death whose initial alleged crime was urination and attempting to run away from police. Or, was it alledgedly biting someone who is beating you to death that was the act that justified death.

Among the many travesties in this case are 1) the utter lack of proportionality between the putative crime and the police response, and 2) the cowardly inability of those in charge to say: "Very sorry, deeply sorry. We really screwed this one up. It was wrong to take it as far as it was taken".

Simple admission by the authorities that this is an example of bad professional judgment would go a long way to reassure me that submission and obedience to police matter how trivial the suspected infraction... under the threat of execution is NOT the latent PDX police policy.

Your comment that "Even the cops should be considered innocent until proven guilty" strikes me as especially ironic, since the police obviously considered Mr. Chasse guilty of the capital offense of urination and disobiedience until proven innocent, and apparently still consider him guilty until proven innocent (in absentia) even now.

Can't hold back anymore... Two years in office and the former police chief who promised to bring accountability (if not good accounting skills for the tram project, oh broke another drum stick) to Portland Police releases that lame shuck and jive statement on the police killing? Look Potter, if you can't get the force under control, who can? That's probably the single biggest issue (the Kendra James story was big in 2004) that got you elected. Where's the extra police training? Where's the shake-up of the force (that doesn't mean giving Foxworth a lameduck job so he can get his share of the $825 million police and fireman pension liability in a few years)? The visioning questionnaire is a joke. The biggest fiasco in Portland history, the South Waterfront project, is on your watch. The visioning project is the butt of every citizen's jokes, Republican or Democrat. Yeah, it means losing a lot of friends in the process, but please have the courage to fight the good fight before crawling back in your hobbit hole in Woodstock. A cop has life and death in his hands. A private sector employee has profit and loss in his hands. If the private employee loses money, he's easily terminated, regardless of the rhyme or reason of his judgement. Shouldn't the same standard apply to life and death, even if it is a poor person's life?

Imo, Potter's response just begs the question: Who is really running PPB? -and the rest of the state, for that matter. The "leaders" appear to be lame figureheads and apologists.

Is there any documented case whereby someone has broken "16 ribs, including some that punctured a lung and caused massive internal bleeding" from a fall from a standing position (it is not as if he fell out of a tree)? Any kicking, punching, etc. that was done by the Police was COMPLETELY unneeded, in any case. THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE OUTRAGE. I have lived in Portland all my life and not only am I embarrassed, but I am begginning to wonder if these PDX cops feel as if they can get away with murder now. THIS NEEDS TO NOT GO AWAY UNTIL SOMEONE IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE!

We citizens cannot stand by and let this murder of an innocent man pass. When are we going to surround the police headquarters en masse and protest!!!


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