Portland, Or., Mayor Tom Potter wants to set aside $500,000 over the next two years to help give all patrol officers 40 hours of specialized training on how to deal with people suffering from a mental illness, The Oregonian reports. Police Chief Rosie Sizer said it will take “tremendous effort” to become the first major metropolitan police agency to do so. Sizer wants all new recruits next year to complete Crisis Intervention Training before they’re assigned to patrol. She plans to start one class a month beginning in January for 30 street officers and continue for as long as two years.
Last month’s death of James Chasse Jr. in police custody has drawn renewed attention to police training. Chasse, 42, suffered from schizophrenia, but three officers did not suspect he had a mental illness when they approached him. They thought he was either on drugs or drunk. The three officers were not certified in crisis intervention. Nationally, law enforcement is changing tactics because police often are the first contact with the mentally ill. Mental health advocates say the specialized training focuses on avoiding crises through communication. They say traditional police tactics of establishing immediate command and control can feed the paranoid delusions of an unstable person and spur a violent confrontation.