A Department of Justice investigation into the Portland Police Bureau found police use excessive force when dealing with people with mental illness.
The findings of the DOJ investigation were announced at a news conference Thursday morning, where officials said the DOJ already has a preliminary agreement in place with the police bureau and the city to remedy the problems.
The police bureau's most publicized use of force in recent years may be the James Chasse case, in which the city eventually reached agreement on a $1.6 million settlement for Chasse's death. Chasse, 42, who suffered from schizophrenia, died in September 2006 after he was tackled by police officers who chased him for allegedly urinating in public. He was also shot with a stun gun. He suffered 16 broken ribs and a punctured lung that led to his death while officers were taking him to a hospital in a patrol car.
But neither of those cases were among five listed in the DOJ report that federal officials said illustrated a pattern of use of force against the mentally ill:
In July 2011, police used a beanbag shotgun and a Taser on a man who was reported to have a sword. A sword was never seen by officers.
In December 2010, police used a Taser on a man several times while trying to detain him for a mental health evaluation.
In August 2010, a naked man with diabetes who was experiencing a medical emergency in his apartment leapt up and ran toward officers when he saw them. The officer immediately shocked the man with Taser, and went on to use his Taser three more times.
In May 2011, a Spanish-speaking man standing in the rain for over an hour kicked at an officer when a Portland police officer approached. The man didn't make contact. The officer caught the man's leg, threw him to the ground and punched him several times in the face.
In May 2010, officers investigating a complaint of someone spitting on cars encountered a man with his fists raised to the officer's face in an effort to show his hospital ID bracelet. When the man didn't back up and showed what the officer called was a "fighting stance," police used pepper spray on the man, who then started to walk backward. After warning the man, the officer used his Taser four times before placing him in handcuffs.
The DOJ investigation was first announced back in 2011.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez said the Justice Department was gratified by the response of the mayor and police chief.
Portland isn't the only city to be the target of an investigation at the hands of the Justice Department. The DOJ has taken similar steps involving a variety of state and local law enforcement agencies, both large and small, in jurisdictions such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Louisiana and California.
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation.) All rights reserved.
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