People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
New Shootings Report Reveals Cops Let
In late February, the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) released their fourth report on Portland Police shootings and deaths in custody. PARC took the police to task for how they treated Willie Grigsby, who was killed after leading police on a car chase and shooting at them, wounding one officer in the hand (PPR #34). The new report also cautions cops on the over-use of Tasers and AR-15 assault rifles. Meanwhile, the public anxiously awaits the outcome of the investigation into whether Officer Christopher Humphreys (#32784) lied about whether or not he tackled James Chasse, Jr in September 2006, leading to Chasse's death (PPRs #40 and 46).
The new PARC report covers 12 shootings from 2002-2005 and includes 9 new formal recommendations. The previous reports in 2003, 2005 and 2006 covered the years 1997-2002 and laid out over 115 recommendations for the Bureau to improve training and policy, as well as investigations regarding deadly force incidents (PPRs #31, 37 and 41). In the past, the reports have been so vague in the details about which incident was being examined that they were nearly impossible to follow. This time, PARC laid out each incident clearly and numbered them, using those numbers as reference throughout the report, a huge improvement.
Because of the report's new format, it is clear that in Grigsby's case, not only did police hit the 24- year-old African American man with 13 bullets, 22 beanbags, and 5 Taser hits, but a police dog bit and dragged him while he was bleeding to death. What the mainstream press failed to ask about was the report's revelation that numerous audio and video tapes were missing from the investigative file when PARC reviewed the case. When asked whether any discipline had been handed down in the incident, Chief Sizer said she couldn't comment on discipline but that corrective measures had been taken where appropriate. (This probably means they put a note in the case file saying "Some tapes are missing! Ooops! Sorry!")
The lack of medical care for Grigsby as he lay dying led PARC to repeat recommendations from their 2005 report that would replace the Bureau's charge to render aid "at the earliest time feasible" to do so "as soon as possible," as none of Grigsby's wounds were initially fatal. SERT arrived and waited 37 minutes to get medical attention to Grigsby, though he "had not moved for nearly an hour."
The report warns the PPB against repeated use of Tasers, still giving leeway to use Tasers as many as three times before coming under scrutiny. Given the over 300 unexplained deaths after suspects were zapped by Tasers, we would have hoped that calling for a limited use would have meant only one Taser hit and only in cases where deadly force would otherwise have been allowed. PARC also called to restrict the use of so-called "less lethal rounds" such as "bean bag guns" as a result of the Grigsby case.
PARC did not address the fact that the Portland Police have used Tasers on people who were mortally wounded numerous times, though Portland Copwatch has been raising the concern for years. Kendra James, Jahar Perez, and Dennis Young were also Tasered after being shot.
PARC suggests that the Bureau not use AR-15 assault rifles in close-range incidents. This makes sense since the bullets can travel 300 yards.
Other high profile cases covered in the report included the deaths of Byron Hammick, who was holding a toddler when police killed him in 2002, Shane Clements, who was killed while boxed in by police cars in 2003, and Vernon Allen, a homeless man who was allegedly waving a knife when multiple cops surrounded him and killed him within 5 minutes (PPRs #26, 32, and 36). Suspiciously absent is the shooting of James Jahar Perez, who was killed at a traffic stop in 2004 while unarmed (PPR #32). Because the lawsuit was not settled until late in 2008 (PPR #46), PARC was not allowed to review the file.
While PARC evaluated and accepted the Bureau's position on 28 of the 2003 recommendations this time around, they did not highlight the City's lack of response to their recommendation #5.15, which called for a funded civilian oversight body for shootings and deaths cases. Auditor Blackmer seemed surprised that such a recommendation was in the report. Unfortunately, the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) does not have a chance to review the report ahead of time, and unless their PARC Work Group takes immediate action, may not begin evaluating the new report for years. They have been looking at the 2005-2006 reports since November, 2007 (see IPR article in this issue).
In the case of James Chasse, Chief Sizer promised she would soon release the results of the investigation about Humphreys' changed story as to whether he fell on Chasse, as he told investigators, or "tackled him hard," as he bragged about in the booking area of the jail. Sizer also promised results for the original investigation into possible misconduct by Humphreys, Sgt. Kyle Nice and then-Deputy Bret Barton in the events leading to Chasse's death. The case was heard by the Use of Force Review Board in early October (Oregonian, December 9). Humphreys' fate is particularly interesting as another case surfaced in which he allegedly assaulted a person with mental illness. Humphreys allegedly "assaulted, falsely arrested, and discriminated against" Lisa Ann Coppock on April 22, 2008, according to a tort claim filed in October (Portland Mercury, January 29).
Other developments related to the case have made the press recently: the PPB revised its policies on foot chases, including video training on their "knock-down technique" (Oregonian again); plus, Crisis Intervention Team training has been completed for all officers to learn de- escalation and recognizing signs of mental illness (Mercury, February 12).
In February, the Mental Health Association of Portland posted a trailer for the documentary "Alien Boy," about Chasse's life and death, see more at the Alien Boy website.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.