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Friday, October 20, 2006

About Officer Humphreys

Here's a comment that came in today that needs to be moved up to a post of its own. It's about Portland Police Officer Christopher Humphreys, the central figure in the violent death at police hands of James Chasse Jr. Portland attorney Travis Eiva writes:

Last year, I represented a young man in a Federal police misconduct case against the Portland Police. The claims in that case alleged that Officer Humphreys and three other Portland officers stood over a 19 year old man and beat him with a flashlight, a steel baton, boots, fists, pepper spray, and three tazer deployments. Officer Humphreys struck the young man across the shins and midsection with a steel baton about 30 times during the incident. I certainly would not object to someone calling Officer Humphreys "overzealous" in his use of force.

All the while the young man screamed for "help." Independent witnesses described the screams as horrific. Independent witnesses stated that the young man did not "resist" the officers and that the young man was simply trying to protect himself from the officer violence. By the way, it was a case of mistaken identity; the young man did not commit an underlying crime to lead to the officer melee.

In March 2006, the city took a sizable judgment against itself on the above case in return for dismissal against the individual officers. City Council reviewed the settlement before it was approved. For me, this settlement brings up two major points when thought about in the context of the Chasse incident:

1. Prior to the Chasse incident, City Council was on notice that there were serious allegations of excessive force againt Officer Humphreys; AND

2.The City has already taken a bullet for Officer Humphreys in the past, i.e. negotiated a deal that protected him from personal culpability for violent actions.

So now I have a couple of questions:

1. What does the City do when it takes a judgment against itself for its more "aggressive" officers? After the judgment, did the City require that Humphreys be re-trained on the use of force or did they just send him back on his next shift?

2. How powerful is the Portland Police Union? Too powerful?

One more thing: Portland Police are trained in many things. They are forced to take a number of mandatory classes, such as shooting guns, executing distraction strikes (i.e. how to make kicks and punches most effective), using steel batons, and using minor traffic violations as a pretext to stop young men who wear their pants too low. Every officer takes classes on the
above subject matter. There are also a number of optional classes. Many officers do not take these classes. As of last I was aware, there is an OPTIONAL class on officer contact with mentally ill individuals, that trains the officer in how to appropriately manage interactions with folks who suffer from mental illness. I would bet my dollars against anyone's doughnuts that our Chasse Officers did not sign up for that class. With a certain lawusit to follow the Chasse incident, I wonder how much the City coffers will have to bleed, not to mention mentally ill people brutalized, to make up for this lapse of judgment on the part of police officer training.

Too bad it came in late on a Friday afternoon, when all the dirt seems to come out and the fewest people are paying attention. But I'm sure you'll agree, it's interesting nonetheless.

Comments (34)

I think it's completely fair to be generally pro-union in spirit, and yet completely detest the unquestioning protection of officers. Public oversight and accountability is warranted when it comes to public safety, simply because the lives of citizens and the integrity of law are at stake. It's no different than the standard we (should) hold our President to, given the fates of so many rest in his hands.

So Potter, grow a pair and fire that knuckledragging cop... now.

1. What does the City do when it takes a judgment against itself for its more "aggressive" officers?

I suspect that what the author meant was that the City allowed a judgment to be taken against itself in exchange for dismissal of the individual defendants in the case. My recollection is that, in general and with some exceptions, under the federal civil rights statutes in question, 42 USC sec. 1983, a plaintiff can obtain monetary damages against individual defendants but only injunctive relief against the municipality. (Separate provisions in the Oregon statutes may, however, require the City to indemnify its employees if the actions they took were in the course and scope of their employment) It would not be unusual as part of a settlement in a federal civil rights case for the municipality to both defend against and pay the judgment which resulted as a result of the conduct of its agents.

A few years ago when a couple of African-Americans were killed by the police. There was a public outcry, but little was done to correct the situation. Now that a white mentally ill person is killed by the police we have a public outcry, but little will be done.

What is it going to take? Get a gay person killed by the police to get Sam Adams and company up off their dead rears to do something. If that actually happened to someone in the gay community there would be hell to pay and Sam would probably be leading the riot to City Hall.

Plenty of money for legacy projects, but little for human protection. This city council should be ashamed.


Several years ago in Los Angeles, which has a notorious police department, some sociologist studied the incidence of police brutality tracked by each police officer. The study found that an unusually high percentage of excessive violence against citizens came from an unusually low percentage of the cops. Something like 80% of the police brutality complaints were pinned on about 5% of the cops (I'm quoting this from memory of a New Yorker article, but I'm pretty good at remembering stats, as anyone who has tried me in baseball trivia has discovered).

So instead of a standard bell curve for police brutality, there is a weird J-curve which has an esoteric name. The upshot is that sending all officers to special sensitivity training or classes on dealing with the mentally ill isn't that important. All you have to do is get rid of the few violence prone cops.

If the union's leaders had any smarts, they would go along with firing guys like Humphreys and cleaning house. The majority of the cops will be just fine and they won't have to deal with politically correct curriculum.

Okay, I found the New Yorker article, which you can read here: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060213fa_fact

It wasn't a sociologist, but Warren Christopher, who later was in the Clinton Administration, heading a special commission.
What the commission found out is that if the City of Los Angeles fired 44 cops (out of 8,500), most of the police brutality would be gone.

Important studies that could help solve serious problems aren't of much interest to this city council. Do you have anything on parking meter revenue?

I don't know the details of this case, but reading this blog suggests that the guilty party (parties) in the police bureau are going to be "held harmless" for their actions, while a subsequent civil suit for damages may well punish the citizens of Portland by extracting their tax dollars for something they were not involved in. Their "crime" was to be a resident of Portland when the incident occurred.

This reminds me of the sex-abuse cases in the Catholic Church, where the offending priests are not prosecuted, but the innocent parishioners see their church assets confiscated for crimes they were not even aware of and, as a result, could not have prevented. They are punished merely for belonging to the same parish.

I understand that compensation is certainly warranted in such cases, but doesn't it mattter where said compensation comes from? Is there to be no link between action and consequences?

Even if an organization, such at the Catholic Church, willfully allowed illegal actions to reoccur by covering them up, does this then make the humble parishioner (outside the hierarchy of the church) liable?

If the innocent have to pay for the crimes of the guilty, then the word "justice" is not applicable.

Exploitation occurs when someone takes assets from another for reasons that are the result of "someone else's" actions.

Of course, this police beating a man to death is a tragedy. We don't have to look too far to see who might be be held to account. But we won't go there, instead we will bleed the innocent and call it justice.

"bleed the innocent "

We're letting this happen. We pay the salaries and pensions of our agents who do this fine work on our behalf.
So we're not entirely blameless.

Patrick b says the innocent suffer in such instances.....err no...we the taxpayer choose to pay taxes to a government to run services like police.

If we want a higher standard of officer intake, training, backup services, specialised mental health problem response etc etc we have the option of paying for same. But we don't. We hope what we pay is in balance with what we get.

If there is a breakdown in the system we fund we are complicit parties to that breakdown.

Maybe the police union should be made the defendant in such a lawsuit.

Perhaps that would give them an incentive to "police" their own.

Again, the vast majority of them are innocent, but at least they might exert some control over their "rogue" members if they suffered such a financial loss.

Like the Catholic Church, it's quite appropriate for the City of Portland to pay money to the victim's family.

But in the church situation, the hierarchy has taken several positive steps in the last few years to prevent recurrence of abuse. I'm not seeing that with the Portland police.

It's time for the City to do something about this. For following reasons Mr. Potter:

a) the citizens of your city are SICK and TIRED of city using their funds to maintain the organization that is dominated by primitive, Nazi-like thugs. This is not Baghdad after all.

b) it is now amply clear we may as well give up on the legal system, our criminal systems are way too rigged to hold police responsible for anything*.

c) no other city/county in this state is in position to do anything about out-of-control police. They all long ago gave up on exercising any meaningful oversight as a result of which the situation in outlying areas (Washington County, Beaverton, etc) is basically hopeless. Only Portland (by the strength of its City Council) is in a position to rein their police in and thus set up an example for others to follow.

d) Portland chances are also higher because there are ample signs that a SIGNIFICANT part of its police force has never subscribed to that goonish, overbearing, Nazi like culture that presently dominates that department and is frankly revolted by it. We think it is City responsibility to help those folks gain upper hand in that organization.

e) the police will never correct itself from within. Impossible, this country has centuries of experience to prove it. Just think Kroeker, Foxworth or Sizer - they all came from the same "swamp" with expected consequences**.

Apologizing Mr. Potter is not good enough. The City should do what this country did with its Defense department, have it run be a civilian.

That person should come from outside police "culture", should not be covered by the current police benefit/retirement racket, and should at minimum recognize what we all know for certain and that is that when given police powers, cops will abuse them if permitted to run w/o aggressive external oversight.

That's our only chance, Mr Potter.


*Even assuming a DA willing to prosecute police could be find to replace the current one, it would be next to impossible to find a judge who would permit the case to go unhindered. Courts in this country have a well justified reputation for protecting the police at any cost as a results of which this country has by far the highest rate of police killings/brutality among civilized nations (order of magnitude). Even if by some miracle a decent judge could be found, the police would derail most court cases almost immediately by activating their national network of corrupt "experts" willing to testify in defense of any police behavior, however indefensible.

** Kroeker was a typical product of SoCal police "culture". Barricaded in their reinforced redoubts their typical mode of operation was to mount an expedition from time to time into urban jungle to "thin the herd" so to speak and to retreat to their bunkers immediately afterwards. Plus Kroeker was a typical SoCal military nut, as long as we could review Nazi-like his neatly groomed, spit polished, smartly saluting troops every morning he couldn't care less about what was taking place in the streets or in police precincts. To be fair the guy was as clean as a whistle, which is not that common in police circles, no hanky-panky, no shady deals and way above personally kicking a totally defenseless homeless person to death.

** Foxworth turned out to be a total disappointment. Certainly nobody expected him to show any MLK-like sensibilities (the guy was a product of the PPD "swamp" not some black ghetto after all), but his utter inability to see a greater picture and to act on it was inexcusable. Thugs continued in their merry ways unrestrained under his "command". Pursuing the "office pussy" was the only thing he appeared to be good at. Sad, so many had high hopes for him.

** Little is know about Sizer, but my gut feeling is we are in trouble here. Long standing and ugly European experience is that women in position of power (police, prisons, camps) are usually far less constrained when it comes to abuse of power or tolerating it than their male counterparts. Whatever the case with her may be, the fact that she comes from the same "swamp" doesn't bode well.

Er, calling people Nazis and stereotyping women aren't helpful.

I don't doubt there are cops who are bullies. I suspect you'll find bullies in every occupation. I also can't imagine that these officers intended the outcome.

If someone bit me, I might well smash them in the face. I'm very, very sympathetic to people whose job it is to be the one called in when everything turns to crapola...the car wrecks, the crazy, armed jealous boyfriend, the dead body on the street. That's your job, dealing with nastiness every day. One day the hero, the next day everyone's calling for your head when you show bad judgement. I'm glad none of us here ever lose our head or show poor judgement.

That said...when you make a mistake, you own it. Even if you lost it and beat the crap out of someone, as outrageous as that may or may not be...what chills me to the bone is why the delay in getting medical treatment?

You're on the highway, taking the guy to the hospital. You're 3 minutes from the emergency room. You see you're losing the guy in cuffs and leg irons in the back seat...and you pull off the road? The police record says it took 3 minutes before the officer began CPR. That's the 3 minutes it would have taken to get to the emergency room.

That's the part I don't get. That's the part where I can't find the excuse, can't come up with the justification. More than the presumptive beating...it's the part that scares me the most.

We'd all like to see heads fall over Chasse. It would make it easier to believe that things are fair and that Justice is watching over all of us. Until the theatre of a civil trial, the specific Chasse issue is moot.

It might be worth thinking about reality for a moment.

As long as we allow actively psychotic people to roam the streets in the names of Constitutionally-protected individual liberty and "community mental health", some of those people will cause or receive unjust violent deaths. As observers, we are unsettled by this.

Would you sleep in your home if an agitated psychotic was roaming around downstairs? (BTW, "psychotic" simply means having hallucinations, delusions or gross misinterpretation of reality.)

We either force acutely psychotic people to take medicine in a secure setting until they are safe to be on their own, or we rely on the police and jails to deal with these scary and irrational psychotic people among us less humanely...that is, more primitively. Is there some other choice?

I've always believed that silence was assent. The silent and unbothered masses in Oregon have simply outvoted the comparatively tiny group who read this blog.

"The silent and unbothered masses in Oregon have simply outvoted the comparatively tiny group who read this blog."

I wonder if this would be the case if most members of the press didn't seem to be among those masses? Too many reporters seem waaaay to comfortable to me.

Somethings never change.... most of you probably don't remember how the police union protected a couple of cops who violated the civil rights of African-American restaurant owners by dumping a dead possum in front of the door of the place.... cops did not lose badges.... and then there was the time the cops killed an African-American who had stopped a robbery in progess at a convenience store but revved up cops killed him with a choke hold before finding out he was a hero... and then they printed up t-shirts "Don't choke em, smoke em". And once again no punishments.

The thin blue line protects criminals with badges.


This blog has some good points, including the "history" of homeless on the streets and a hauntingly similar situation. The problem is bigger than the police, I have some friends that are police officers, and I think quite hightly of Rosie Sizer. I think this blogs observation in the New Yorker Article is dead on, it is not bell shaped but as this post so aptly points out, the hiring of people who don't have the aptitude, attitude, or adaptability to be doing police work. That should have been realized by Mr. Humphrey's last lawsuit which was the meat of this post,and he should have been gone before the encounter with Mr. Chasse.

If you read down on that blog post, there is good information about how to approach teh problem, the costs, and the recent LA court ruling.

The thing that scares me about the post is that it shows the burnout of regular cops, not all of them are Nazi Thugs Cynthia, there are a lot of good ones who are really trying to do their jobs.

John C,

Have I ever said I thought most cops were Nazi thugs? I don't think so, and I wouldn't mean to imply that, ever. Not Ever. A couple of my best friends have relatives in law enforcement, literally.

What i said above is that I think the press is too comfortable and is part of "the unbothered masses:. What I think should be bothering them is how the DA's office is operating.

I'm sorry Cynthia, the Nazi Thug reference was from "wg" post, which is hard to follow, I though he was using an excerpt from someone elses post, I have an old computer and can't flip back and forth. Again I appoligize for not doing a better job of editing.

In the mid-60s I remember hearing that Joe D. Matarazzo, a ex-college boxer and OHSU psychologist, consulted for the PPD in the screening process for recruits. I think various screening tests were used, but the final step was a personal interview wherein JDM peppered the applicant with carefully chosen incendiary comments. The guys who came over the desk at JDM weren't hired. The rest were. One wonders what current methods are used to identify future "thumpers".

If you go back far enough, there have been many possum-like incidents and a range of scandals. But, I've only personally seen one truly sadistic display of abuse.

In about 1968, Terry Shrunk sent about 30 city police in black leather riot gear to disperse about 100 PSU professors, students and assorted flower children from a weekly, 1-hour, noon-time, silent and motionless, anti-war vigil in the park blocks across directly in front of the Smith Center.

The police marched into the sober and impassive crowd like cyborgs and suddenly exploded into a fury of swinging battons, kicking their massive leather boots at those who hit the ground. Blood was everywhere. It was a numbing and unforgetable part of my college education on rights of assembly, free speech, government and police.

Mr. Humphrey's last lawsuit which was the meat of this post,and he should have been gone before the encounter with Mr. Chasse.

I can't --and won't-- speculate about Mr Humphreys initial actions. I wasn't there. But he's only one player in this drama.

I think the problem is more institutional, more systemic. I think of that photo of Mr Chasse lying there on the street, with broken ribs, a pierced lung (well, of course, we know that now)...and that's everyone looking on, police, fire, ambulance crew. Think that scene would have been the same if it was a guy in a suit? And God knows I've peed behind a tree or two in my life. (And if we don't provide public bathrooms where do we expect the public to pee?)

Our society marginalizes some people, and it's how we're organized. There's a whole industry out there that depends on it. And while the New Yorker article talks about the hundreds of thousands of dollars of hospital bills run up...that's hundreds of thousands of dollars of hyper-inflated "costs" that get chalked up to "charity" to justify not-for-profit status, and high rates. Tongue depressors don't really cost ten bucks each. Cots are cheap if we want to fill closed Washington-Monroe High School with them...as we did for the Hurricane Katrina victims who never came, then put those cots back away, re-locked the doors, and still have folks sleeping in our doorways, and under the bridges.

I walk the Central Eastside Industrial District, part of my neighborhood, often, and there's a lot more troubled people out there than we care to admit. A lot of them are scary. It's a difficult job handed over to the police to keep them in line, and out of our faces. Mr Chasse wasn't one of them, but he maybe looked the part, and so there you go. In the meantime, we forget that when the officer gets on the scene, his or her role isn't mediator, isn't social worker...it's to take control of that situation. That's going to take a mind-set and set of operating protocols that's designed to make you "respectful" if not afraid. "Stop right there," or "Lie down on your stomach" is not a request, it is a command, whoever the officer, whatever their interpersonal skills or personal demons. That's the set of rules we live under, and if they make us uncomfortable we need to look at what we've created.

In the meantime we've fostered a society that doesn't allow for admitting error, because those admissions later cost money lost in lawsuits. Instead of transparency, we get, well, we see what we get.

Are Portlanders and Oregonians more likely to die at the hands of the police than residents of other cities and states?

Yes, according to (difficult to find) federal statistics. I didn't see any reports in the Oregonian, Willamette Week, etc, comparing the number of deaths per capita for Portland/Oregon to other areas, but found an interactive federal web site that lets the user do just that. (Go to http:\\ wonder.CDC.gov; at the bottom of the page -- "Mortality - underlying cause of death." The cause of death is in the category called "legal intervention" (an Orwellian term), but you need to exclude executions when you make the request.)

During 1999-2003 (most recent available numbers), Oregon's rate was twice the national rate, and ranked sixth highest among all states, with an age-adjusted death rate of 2.21 per one million population (following New Mexico, 3.94; Nevada, 3.04; District of Columbia, 2.93; Oklahoma 2.87; Arizona 2.45). The US average was 1.12. New York and New Jersey had rates of 0.53 and 0.49, respectively.

According to the statistics, the death rate for residents of Multnomah County is six times higher than for King County (Seattle) in Washington state, 3.09 compared to 0.54 (The rates are considered unreliable because the number of deaths are fewer than 20, but they do give one pause.)

Why not have a peaceful Portland rally to demand better justice in this case, and so many others? How does one go about organzing such an event? I think Portlanders are upset enough to march in the streets over this.

I understand that there's going to be some sort of memorial for James Chasse on Friday. The family has requested that it remain respectful. Maybe that would be a start along the lines you suggest.

I was a cop for about 8ys I resinged about 10yrs ago because I thought they were out of line in many cases, corrupt, dishonest, bullies and had no honor. I was a whistleblower and lost that battle. I would stop the beatings that happen all the time, I would read a report that was nothing but lies and report it, I can go on and on, I busted my chief for corruption and the city didn’t want the publicity of a bad chief so the chief resigned and went on to another State and became a cop again. I had a cop come to me and ask what he should do about a shooting that he alleges was a murder by police, he was afraid to report it as he was a witness to it. I reported it and have had to go to three different agencies and nothing has happened. Wake up you sheeple, Oh, the world is good and only one or two cops are bad, give me a break. This is a huge problem about ignorant foolish sheeple citizens who roll over on thier back like a cowering bitch dog in a crisis. Cops do not have a job that is SO dangerous but a cop can make it dangerous. When a person who may be poor, black, shave his head or wear baggy pants basically not look or dress or drive a vehicle or live in a house like yours gets stopped by a cop for the ump ting time for BS he will not roll over when a pumped up cop gets in his face and this poor guy loses. In the sheeple eyes this guy deserved everything he gets because you do not live in reality, so keep rolling over on your back and wave your flag.

I was by myself trying to stop the corruption if a handful of cops had the balls to stand up with me maybe we could have changed things. As far as I am concerned, any cop who has not blown the whistle on a fellow officer is a punk and a criminal as they watch cops commit crime and do nothing to stop it. All of you who feel like your important because you know a cop, judge, prosecutor, ask them if they ever reported a dirty co-worker and ask them if they ever saw an officer use exssive force.

I am a 100% disabled Marine at this time, I was stabbed in my heart and lung and suffocated to death as my lungs filled with blood it was horrific, a horrific death not being able to breath as men stood by and just looked at me. I could hear myself yell to them “I can’t breath, I can’t breath” I then realized I was paralyzed in death and my lips weren’t moving, They could not hear my cries for help because I only thought I was screaming for help, I could hear and feel pain and I knew I was dying. I know how James Chasse died and I feel for him because he suffered to death. By the way James Chasse was not homeless he had an apartment and about wondering the streets, come on people a mentally disabled person is 2 ½ times more likely to become a victim of a violent crime then a sheeple rich person who fears them the most, I am sorry the disabled scare you maybe you should hire on with the PPB and kill the disabled off so you can live in peace.

It's kinda late now, but there is a protest planned today at 2pm in the North Blocks.

Oct 22. is a national day to protest police brutality.

I want comments and ask why I am the only cop on a blog.

Plus Kroeker was a typical SoCal military nut, as long as we could review Nazi-like his neatly groomed, spit polished, smartly saluting troops every morning he couldn't care less about what was taking place in the streets or in police precincts.

Yet he was tapped by the UN to be police chief in Liberia...

And Joe Smith, lets keep the ego in check, huh? This is Jack's place.

A public memorial for James Chasse, Jr. will be held this Friday, October 27, from 7 to 8:30 pm at First Congregational Church at 1126 SW Park Avenue.

More information at http://www.mentalhealthportland.org.

Jon your out of line correcting me.

Some people would call my statements wisdom but you took offence, sorry Jon. I know what I am saying and it is fact. You are one of the sheeple I was talking about. One who has never killed but wants too. We have a constitution that we are free and can walk the streets and not be beaten to death. I killed for you and other's and I am not a hero I am a murder and the is what a vet lives with. If you take a job to serve and protect then lay your life on the line to serve and protect the weak and defenseless. If you want to kill you are a socio path or a bitch boy who tries to correct others who have wisdom and nightmares of the past that tell me we are not far from the cops taking us out of our house and shooting us in the head just because we believe in something else. So get off my back yuppie boy and be a giver and not a taker.

"I was by myself trying to stop the corruption if a handful of cops had the balls to stand up with me maybe we could have changed things. As far as I am concerned, any cop who has not blown the whistle on a fellow officer is a punk and a criminal as they watch cops commit crime and do nothing to stop it."

I am with you on this; the over-collegiality in this town is anything but professional. If you want some comfort after having gone through a whistle blowing ordeal, read Ralph Nader's book on the subject. I remember Robert Landauer used to write about the need for the press to get behind whistle blowers. I agree. What I think happens is that it gets swept up in the "kill the messenger" spirit.

A not so minor aside.

The law enforcement agencies in Washington County managed to shoot at least 3 people to death so far this year.

Which would be say 36 deaths in the last 12 years assuming that 3 dispatches per year is their standard performance level.

For comparison there were "only" 30 shooting deaths in the entire UK in the same 12y period even though the population of UK is some 120 greater (60M vs 0.5M).

Do people sitting on various city/county councils in that fine county are aware of this?

I am the person they were looking for on the case of the 19 year old mistaken identity where Officer Humphrey's brutalized my friend Chaz Miller. The case was settled out of court about 6 months ago.

I am open to questions.


Petty Officer Swayze USN

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