At last Friday's memorial service for James Chasse Jr., attended by more than 400 people, Beckie Child of the Mental Health Association of Portland gave Chasse's father a petition addressed to Mayor Tom Potter. The petition, signed by delegates of the Alternatives 2006 mental health care conference in Portland last week, asked that Potter commit to training all of Portland's cops in crisis intervention (CIT) within six months.
"Your pledge will show that you respect and value our community," the petition read.
On Monday, October 30, Potter announced that he'd be seeking $500,000 in funding over two years to train every officer. Last week, we calculated that it would cost under $600,000 to fully implement training ["Putting $581,550 Where Your Mouth Is," Feature, Oct 26].
The mayor's funding request calls for $250,000 now—subject to city council approval at the end of November—and $250,000 next year, to pay for Portland's 845 sworn officers untrained in CIT to go through the police bureau's full, 40-hour course within 12 months.
"One thing the Chasse incident points out is that increasingly, Portland Police are the first responders in incidents of mental health crisis," says the mayor's spokesperson, John Doussard. He acknowledged that there was pressure on the mayor to take action following the death in custody of Chasse, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, on September 17.
"I didn't expect this much money," says Officer Paul Ware, who coordinates the police bureau's CIT program. "But it seems enough persuasive arguments have been offered to get the ball rolling. I'm pretty pleased with this. It means a huge jump in the amount of CIT training we give our officers."
"This [training] should work for the majority of police officers," says Mental Health Association Secretary Jason Renaud. "But there is no correlation between education and compassion, and the next step is to remove the bad apples from the police bureau."