Facing pressure from federal officials, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said he will bring back a specialized team of crisis intervention officers who will work patrol and be called out to handle mental health crisis calls, The Oregonian reports. After years of resisting such a change, Reese acknowledged that having a select group of officers who volunteer for such work will improve the bureau’s interactions with people suffering from mental illness.
The U.S. Department of Justice last month urged the bureau to create a Crisis Intervention Team of officers after its extensive inquiry found the bureau engaged in a a “pattern and practice” of excessive force against people with mental illness. The chief’s decision pleased community mental health advocates and retired and current Portland police officers who have advocated for such a change since the bureau scrapped a specialized team in 2006. Former Mayor Tom Potter dismantled the team in 2007 when he ordered officers to complete 40 hours of crisis intervention training after the controversial death in police custody of James Chasse Jr., a 42-year-old man who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.