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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saltzman Proposes 2 Weeks Off For Chasse Cops: Leonard Calls Saltzman "Parrot" For Police Chief

Posted by Matt Davis on Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 4:21 PM

Update, 4:21pm This originally appeared at 15:29, but I'm moving it up with all the new information. Original post:

Police Commissioner Dan Saltzman has upped Chief Sizer's recommended discipline in the Chasse case, proposing two weeks off for Sergeant Kyle Nice and Officer Christopher Humphreys, instead of Sizer's recommended week off for Nice, on September 23.

The Oregonian had the story an hour ago, with Portland Police Association boss Scott Westerman seeming to be the source. Westerman is yet to return a call for comment, but told O reporter Maxine Bernstein he was "absolutely disgusted" with the recommendation.

Nice and Humphreys have the opportunity to appeal the discipline.

"I'm disgusted as well," says Jason Renaud, with the Mental Health Association of Portland—a friend of Chasse's and advocate for people in similar situations, who has called on Saltzman and the city council to do seven actions to repair damage associated with the death.

"This shows a basic lack of courage," says Renaud. "And maybe a lack of the tools needed to discipline officers. This is the lightest possible discipline imaginable. This doesn't make us safer, this doesn't protect us better. James Chasse is still dead."

"We need the tools to discipline officers more readily, instead of waiting three years," Renaud continues. "The commissioner seems to be rather powerless at this point."

Renaud says he has offered Saltzman and Sizer the opportunity to speak publicly to the community about the incident, and they have refused. "Their actions and decisions need explaining," he says.

Saltzman is yet to return a call for comment on the news.

Speaking earlier, before the discipline was recommended, city commissioner Randy Leonard spoke out about Saltzman's relationship with Police Chief Rosie Sizer, describing him as "a parrot" for the chief.

"He is a captive of the culture as much as anybody else is, on the 15th floor of the police bureau," Leonard said, referring to the chief's office. "The place needs a house cleaning."

Leonard spoke out two weeks ago on the Chasse incident, describing it as "unjustifiable and inexcusable," and said the city should move quickly to settle its lawsuit with Chasse's family.

"This isn't just about Chief Sizer," Leonard continued. "I had the same issues with Chief Kroeker and Chief Foxworth, when it came to defensive hostility."

Leonard would not specify a preference for an alternative chief, but did say Central Commander Mike Reese is "one of the most thoughtful human beings I've ever known in my life and an outstanding public servant."

Update, 4:05: Westerman is giving a news conference, apparently only for TV, at city hall right now, telling them this is "a political move" by Saltzman, and that he "is expecting things from officers that they can't give." We never got the invite to the news conference, although Westerman recently hired Galatin public affairs for PR advice. So perhaps they told him we would ask difficult questions. Update 2, 4:12, Westerman says he sent a fax invite. "I was wondering why there were so few people there," he says. "We're switching to email for these things, from now on."

Original update, 4:05

"The death of James Chasse is a tragedy," he said. "The discipline recommendation issued by Commissioner Dan Saltzman is nothing more than a politician playing politics with the lives of Officers Chris Humphreys, Kyle Nice and their families. I know sergeant Nice and Officer Chris Humphreys personally. They are honorable men. They are fathers, husbands, and members of this community, and they are devestated members of this bureau. The recommendation issued today has nothing to do with the use of force. Commissioner Saltzman wants to discipline these officers for following the medical advice of paramedics and nurses. In other words, these officers are being disciplined for not being medics. Commissioner Saltzman is seeking to discipline officer Humphreys in part because an ambulance did not transport Chasse from the jail to hospital. Saltzman knows that the jail nurse never evaluated James Chasse. She never checked his vitals, she never checked his pulse. She only looked at Mr.Chasse through a window, she gave no advice to transport by an ambulance. Officer Chris Humphreys are being unfairly disciplined for purely political reasons. Commissioner Saltzman was not able to discipline medical crews or jail nurses, so he is taking aim at these officers for political posturing. The citizens and police officers of Portland deserve better than this from our elected officials. The Portland Police Association will vigorously defend Kyle Nice and Chris Humphreys as this issue moves forward in the discipline process."

Update 2, 4:12pm: Saltzman has issued a written statement.

"Mr.Chasse had been in a foot pursuit, taken to the ground, involved in a prolonged struggle, tasered, and at one point appeared to have lost consciousness," Saltzman writes. "Although it is not clear this information would have made a difference in the assessment by medical personnel or in the ultimate death of Mr.Chasse, I believe the officers should have made sure [the ambulance company] was well aware of all of these facts."

Saltzman thinks the officers should have had Chasse taken to hospital in an ambulance, rather than their patrol car. And he thinks they should have called for an ambulance at the jail when Chasse lost consciousness a second time, instead of trying to drive him to hospital in their patrol car.

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