Under U.S. Pressure, Portland Police to Make Changes in Mental Health Cases


Facing an ultimatum from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Portland Police Bureau pledged to pair more officers with mental health experts, bring back a specialized team of experienced officers to respond to mental health calls, and help reroute certain 911 calls to mental health providers, The Oregonian reports. These are some reforms the bureau has agreed to after federal officials said they’ve found Portland police have engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force against people who suffer from or are perceived to suffer from mental illness.

Community activists, mental health advocates, lawyers who have sued the police bureau, and even some Portland officers have urged the bureau to take similar actions for years, without much success. “On paper all of the recommendations seem to make sense, and actually parrot lots of complaints that the community and people like me have been making for a long time,” said Tom Steenson, the attorney who represented the families of James Chasse and Aaron Campbell, two men who died in police custody. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez released a highly critical report of Portland police use of force after a 14-month-long federal investigation.

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