The Portland, Or., Police Bureau has drafted a much-expanded policy that stresses the need for officers to recognize behaviors “characteristic” of mental illness and safely de-escalate encounters, The Oregonian reports. A new Mental Health Crisis Response directive requires officers to use special skills to avoid unnecessary violence and potential civil liability. The mental crisis response policy follows a federal judge’s approval of a negotiated settlement between Portland and the U.S. Department of Justice that required changes to police policies, training and oversight.
The settlement stemmed from a federal investigation that found police had a pattern of using excessive force against people with mental illness or people perceived to have a mental illness. In deciding how to respond to a call involving someone suffering a mental health crisis, officers are supposed to assess the risk to themselves, the subject of the call and others. They’re also supposed to evaluate if police involvement is necessary. “Many persons affected by mental illness or in crisis are not dangerous and some may only present dangerous behavior under certain circumstances or conditions,” the new directive says.