Daryl Turner, the new president of the police union, has issued a statement in support of the police officers involved in the death of James Chasse, a schizophrenic man who died in police custody.
The remarks, released yesterday in a statement, came a day after City Council approved a record $1.6 million settlement with the Chasse family.
The statement argues that the officers acted according to their training at the time, which has been subsequently changed to better equip officers for interactions with the mentally ill, and were not at fault.
The police union standing up for the embattled officers is nothing new. Late last year, Sgt. Scott Westerman, Turner’s predecessor, held a massive union demonstration after then-Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman suspended Officer Chris Humphreys, one of the officers involved in the Chasse incident, for shooting an underage girl at a MAX stop with a beanbag gun.
Here’s the full text of the statement:
Solutions to Chasse tragedy lie outside law enforcement
PORTLAND, OR — July 27, 2010 — Since 2006, the Portland Police Association has seen the death of James Chasse as a tragic accident. His family was devastated and the lives of the officers involved have been changed forever.
The officers and supervisor who responded to the incident followed their Portland Police Bureau training according to the policies and procedures at that time. Since then, Bureau policies have changed, attempting to adapt to law enforcement’s changing role in society. The PPA will continue to support Officers Chris Humphreys and Bret Burton, and Sergeant Kyle Nice. We will work to vindicate their names, careers and integrity.
Vilifying law enforcement masks the real issue of the broken mental health system in Oregon. The system has been stripped of its staffi ng, funding and resources by local and state government. A 2010 study by the Treatment Advocacy Center ranks Oregon 36th in the nation in per capita expenditures by its state mental health authority.
Across the country, law enforcement management is all too aware that jails and prisons have become modern-day mental hospitals, returning our mentally ill to conditions of the early nineteenth century where 15-20% of incarcerated inmates suffered serious mental illness.
We look forward to participating with the community and the City to fi nd innovative and appropriate
solutions to better protect and care for our mentally ill citizens.