The Portland Police Bureau drafted a new “Mental Health Crisis Response” policy which will require training for officers to recognize characteristic behaviors of mental illnesses and de-escalate encounters in nonviolent ways.
The new policy is a response to a settlement from a federal investigation that found a pattern of police violence against people with mental illnesses.
Last summer, a federal judge approved a negotiated settlement between the city of Portland and the U.S. Department of Justice, leading to the change in police policies, training, and leadership.
Officers are now required to take certain steps when responding to a call involving a person with a mental health problems.
Responders must first assess themselves, the subject of the call, and bystanders to identify present risks and determine if police involvement is necessary for the situation.
Officers may choose to not engage with the person or delay taking them into custody as long as the situation is safe.
When responding to calls involving mental health crises, emergency dispatchers will dispatch the nearest available officer specifically trained as an Enhanced Crisis Intervention team member.
Police records of all cases dealing with mental health-related issues will be forwarded to the bureau’s Behavioral Health Unit for further review.
Four other directives reverberate already-existing policies, including maintaining professional conduct, being courteous toward the subject of a call, identifying oneself clearly as an officer, and properly utilizing police equipment.
The bureau will be accepting comments on the policy from the public through Jan. 31. A comment form is available on the website.