PORTLAND -- The Portland Police Bureau has announced a plan to better deal with emergency calls involving the mentally ill, which would include using only one Taser at a time.
The bureau made the changes after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation concluded it had engaged in "a pattern or practice of excessive use of force," specifically when dealing with the mentally ill.
The new plan, put forth at a press conference Friday afternoon, will focus on de-escalation tactics, Portland Mayor Sam Adams said. Only one Taser will be used at a time and officers will attempt to use handcuffs between Taser deployments.
“For me this is a watershed moment for the City of Portland, for the Portland Police bureau, also the fire bureau and 911, and our first responders,” Adams said. “We are fully embracing the responsibility. We have and realities we face when it comes to dealing with folks who are perceived or suffering from mental illness.”
Click to read statement from Portland Mayor Sam Adams
The DOJ report last month found that law enforcement agencies are often the first responders in mental health crises, so the new agreement will increase the mental health resources involved in such calls.
There will be three mobile crisis units on the streets, rather than just one. Each unit will include a specially-trained officer and mental health expert.
“As police officers we embrace our role in these changes, and the challenges we face in difficult circumstances every day,” said Portland Police Chief Mike Reese. “We all agree we can do better as a police bureau and community. This agreement will provide us a roadmap as we move forward.”
The cost of the agreement was estimated at $3.3 million. Adams did not how it would be funded.
KGW Reporter Mike Benner contributed to this report