Committee explores changes to how police deal with the mentally ill

The Subcommittee for People with Mental Illness meets for the first time Wednesday night. (KATU Photo)

By now, many Portlanders have heard of the Portland Committee on Community-Engaged Policing (PCCEP). It's a citizen committee that formed in the wake of a legal settlement between the city of Portland and the U.S. Justice Department.

There are also subcommittees exploring specific issues relating to how police officers interact with the public.

The Subcommittee for People with Mental Illness met for the first time Wednesday night.

"The Department of Justice agreement with the city, in the first paragraph, mentions mental illness," said Patrick Nolen, who serves on both the main committee and the mental illness subcommittee.

The group will have regular meetings and they hope to issue recommendations for how officers can better deal with people having a mental health crisis. For many committee members, it's personal.

"Looking back on it, there were different times, like when James Chasse died, where I as a person who was homeless at the time, I feared for my life," said Nolen.

Chasse was the mentally ill Portland man who died while in police custody in 2006. His case sparked widespread outrage and led police interactions with the public to be more closely scrutinized.

Bob Dye, the general manager of Lloyd Center, also serves on both committees. He's partly there because Lloyd Center is a hub of city activity and police interactions have occurred there. But he's also serving for personal reasons. He raised a son who was developmentally delayed. That experience gave him perspective.

"I saw firsthand how these individuals either process or couldn't process information and how they would sometimes overreact to situations," said Dye.

The mental illness subcommittee is scheduled to meet two more times over the next two months. They will then give their recommendations to PCCEP.


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