Police Brutality/Excessive Force —
Headline Victory #8

Shoot beanbag at 12-year-old girl? Just the latest from the Portland police

By Steve Duin, The Oregonian – November 20, 2009, 5:34PM

In the brutal chain of personalities and events that have licensed Portland police to turn a beanbag shotgun on a 12-year-old girl, the aloof commissioner, absentee mayor and anything-goes police chief aren’t nearly as significant as James Chasse Jr., Eunice Crowder and Barbara Weich.

Chasse, of course, died after Officer Christopher Humphreys pancaked the 145-pound schizophrenic when he had the audacity to flee the cops’ approach.

Crowder? In 2003, police pepper-sprayed the 71-year-old blind woman with such enthusiasm that her glass eye popped out of its socket, then used a Taser on her four times as she lay in the dirt.

And Weich? In 2005, the 58-year-old gallery owner tossed a derogative term at one of Portland’s finest — Officer Greg Adrian — after the motorcycle cop gave her a ticket, she says, then mocked her annoyance.

Adrian followed Weich over the Hawthorne Bridge and pulled her over again. “He then hit her in the face with enough force to leave bruising on her cheek and neck,” said Greg Kafoury, her attorney. “He then grabs her arm, pulls it out the window, twists it, puts his weight down on it … fractures the arm.”

Weich subsequently moved to rural Idaho. “She was shattered by the experience,” Kafoury said.

Adrian? “He received no discipline,” Commissioner Randy Leonard reminds us.

Portland police are all about imposing discipline, not exercising it. For years now, escalating displays of excessive force have prompted nothing but shrugs from the police chief and six-figure settlement offers from city attorneys.

Not until Humphreys unloaded his beanbag shotgun at that unruly 12-year-old did Commissioner Dan Saltzman express his annoyance. Overruling chief Rosie Sizer, he put Humphreys on leave. With pay.

“The first glimmer of light I’ve seen in seven years,” Leonard said. “The first time I’ve seen an incident that I considered inexcusable and unjustified in which the chief and the police commissioner followed up.”

Like thousands of Portlanders, they watched the TriMet videos.

The videos offer a vivid contrast to the Police Bureau statement, which tries to explain all this away by insisting Officers Aaron Dauchy and Humphreys were responding to a call about a party “involving several known gang members,” marauding teenagers “wanting to fight,” and a gun that, conveniently, had just been discovered in bushes a mile away.

Given that dramatic buildup, I expected to see Dauchy and Humphreys wade into a chaotic mob scene on the MAX platform at Northeast 148th.

Not even close. The platform is virtually empty as Dauchy first cuffs a juvenile male he knows to be on the TriMet exclusion list, then orders the 12-year-old girl off the train. As he moves to cuff her, she swings on him and Dauchy takes her to the ground. Humphreys is circling the tussle with the shotgun, seemingly desperate to get his licks in.

Every day in Portland, parents are forced to rein in angry adolescents without hauling out the shotgun. When did bureau protocol put the official stamp-of-approval on child abuse?

“The real problem,” Leonard says, “lies in the chief’s office.” And the problem is augmented by the churlishness of the union, the charade of “independent” citizen review, and the cops’ refusal to admit mistakes, much less learn from them.

“The city as it relates to the police bureau is essentially leaderless,” said Chuck Currie, one of the clergy at Chasse’s 2006 memorial service. At the time, he cautioned people to have patience and push for justice.

“Asking for patience,” Currie said Friday, “was a mistake on my part.”

-Steve Duin

Greg Kafoury and Mark McDougal with Joan Thomas after the jury awarded her $600,000. She sought psychiatric help for addiction, and her psychiatrist fed her addiction, then used her prescriptions to conceal his own addiction. Click here for details.