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Judge considers DOJ settlement Monday

by: COURTESY/KOIN 6 NEWS - James Chasse in an undated photo who died in police custody in 2006.Oregon U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon has scheduled a final hearing on the proposed settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and the City of Portland for Monday morning.

Simon could announce whether he will accept or reject the proposed agreement at the hearing that begins at 9:00 a.m. on March 24.

The proposed agreement grew out of a DOJ investigation into whether Portland police had a pattern against using excessive force in dealing with the mentally ill.

Examples inlcuded the September 2006 death of James Chasse, a schizophrenic man who was tackled and Tasered by police after running away from them in the Pearl District. He died in a police car on the way to the hospital after a nurse at the jail denied police when they tried to drop him off.

Chasse's mother, Linda Gerber, told KOIN 6 News, “He just didn’t have a fair shake in life like most people do.”

Since Chasse’s death, Portland police say they have taken steps to change, including the creation of a behavioral health unit. All officers are now given training on how to handle people with mental illness.

“What we’re asking people to do is think about, is this worth chasing someone down for a potentially using force,” PPB Sgt. Pete Simpson told KOIN 6 News.

But mental health advocates and police said there needs to be a safe place for people in with mental illness to go in a crisis.

“The city recognizes through this agreement it may be something they need to do,” Simpson said. “We used to have one at a hospital. It was a crisis triage center, our drop off center for officers. That was very helpful.”

But the agreement states the city should set up a drop-off or walk-in center by mid-2013. There are no signs of that happening.

“I look at the city response or lack of response,” said Chasse’s brother Mark Chasse, “I just say it’s not Jim who’s crazy.”

Chasse's life and death are documented in “Alien Boy,” a film which will be released on Tuesday. The producer said this case showcases the problems the city of Portland is not addressing. It includes video of police attempting to book Chasse into jail.

Reporter Jim Redden contributed to this story.