Portland, Or., police shot eight men last year, says The Oregonian. Of those, two were diagnosed with mental illness, and had substance abuse problems. Three were under the influence of intoxicants and possibly had mental health issues. Many of the people with mental illness don’t qualify for ongoing treatment, or their alcohol and marijuana use falls below the criminal justice system’s radar. Their intoxication reduces their options for treatment at emergency rooms or walk-in clinics. Police are working with emergency dispatchers to see if they can answer 911 calls with a 4th category: fire, police, medical or mental health.
In five of the eight shootings, less-lethal weapons — often Taser stun guns — were used, but didn’t incapacitate the suspects. Police are moving to a Taser gun with a dart that is just over a half-inch long that will allow officers also to shoot from as far as 25 feet away, compared to the current 21-foot distance. “We hope the increase in this dart length will cause for a better connection, and it will be incapacitating,” Training Lieutenant Robert King said. Officers will also use shotgun-propelled Tasers that allow officers to fire from an extended range of up to 80 feet.