JAIME ANDERSON had been struggling for the past few months, battling flare-ups of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that had gotten so bad, in years past, that he'd tried suicide.
His marriage was in shambles. He'd been couch-surfing and drinking. He was arrested last month on suspicion of driving a stolen car. And his slow-burn crisis hit another bump last Tuesday, July 9. Cops found Anderson, 26, drunk and peeing between two cars while waiting for a bus after a party.
But instead of taking him to the drunk tank or calling Project Respond, they drove him to jail. They did this after, Anderson claims, he was pulled from a squad car while handcuffed and punched in the mouth—sparking an excessive-force complaint that's since made its way to the highest levels of city hall and the Portland Police Bureau.
Anderson's mother is Jeri Williams, a former city council candidate, current Office of Neighborhood Involvement employee, and longtime social-justice activist. Williams, after her son was released from jail, marched him up to the mayor's office for answers and then to the Independent Police Review Division for an investigation.
And, in a twist, the two officials who might someday decide on any discipline in this case—Mayor Charlie Hales and Police Chief Mike Reese—both reached out to Williams with offers to meet.
"I just heard a troubling story about your son and the police bureau. I'd really like to hear directly from you what you heard from him about this," Hales said in a voice message shared with the Mercury, adding, "I'm trying to change the culture of the bureau, but we haven't obviously finished that job yet."
Reese was more guarded, emailing that he reviewed the reports with North Precinct Commander Mike Leloff and was willing to meet and discuss them.
“I know having your son arrested and taken to jail must be traumatic,” he wrote. “I would be happy to meet with you and review the reports of the incident.”
How unusual is personal outreach from the top of Portland's cop accountability chain?
"It's occasionally happened in shooting cases. Occasionally but rarely," says Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch. "It's mostly done when the city realized something went wrong."
Spokesmen for both Hales and Reese acknowledged the personal involvement, but laid it on the relationship each has with Williams, through her time on the campaign trail and also as a diversity-training consultant and advocate on sex-trafficking issues.
"[Hales] said he sympathized and empathized that a bad thing happened," spokesman Dana Haynes says. "That's as far as that went."
No one disputes that Anderson was drunk and mouthy. But his account of what happened afterward, relayed through Williams, differs dramatically from what police reports say happened. It also raises echoes of the 2006 beating death of James Chasse Jr. and touches on the central finding in an ongoing federal civil rights case against the police bureau: its "pattern and practice" of using excessive force, especially against people with mental illness.
According to Williams, Officer Jon Dalberg spotted her son between two cars on NE Fremont and accused him of trying to steal one of the cars. Dalberg, she says, put Anderson in handcuffs and sat him in the back of his cruiser.
After Anderson complained about an injured shoulder, he took advantage of his slight build and slipped his arms under his feet so his handcuffs were in front of him. Dalberg had instructed him not to and called for other cops. Williams says an angry Dalberg pulled Anderson from the car and punched him in the mouth after he cursed at the cop—only to grow more angry after blood from the punch splashed on him.
Williams says her son was struck again and then bound in a "hobble"—a strap that ties a suspect's hands and feet together. Sergeant Andrew Edgecomb put a mesh sock over his head. Anderson was laid back in the car where, his mother says, he begged the cops "please don't kill me." He was booked on a charge of harassment, for spitting, later reduced to a violation.
“What made you think you needed to pull over and beat him?” Williams says. “I don't understand that. He was still handcuffed. He was in the back of the car.”
Dalberg's police report paints a different picture. He lists no injuries requiring medical attention. He says Anderson spit at him before slipping his handcuffs over his feet—after Dalberg rolled down the window telling him to calm down. He says Anderson was hobbled only after he refused to stop kicking the inside of the police car.
Dalberg says he merely put his knee on the left side of Anderson's face, to keep him from spitting. Blood is mentioned, but at the end of the report, when the spit sock was removed. Anderson, he wrote, "may have cut the inside of his mouth while I held his head down."
Sergeant Pete Simpson, a police spokesman, said he couldn't comment on specifics of the case but that the report was "clear cut" about what happened. He also said there's no video, as of yet, showing what happened. In a recent brutality case filed against the city, attorneys for Jason Cox produced video showing discrepancies between what the officers wrote and what actually happened.
But Williams is left with questions. She wonders why police didn't call Multnomah County's crisis line before taking her son to jail. If they had, they'd have learned of his condition. She says the Independent Police Review Division has photos of his injuries. She's also been talking with a lawyer.
"But we're not going to settle," she says. "The city will say, 'You were injured? Here's $20,000. Now don't ever talk about the case again.'"