When it comes to police conduct in this city, there is always a bounty of finger pointing to go around.
The Department of Justice’s report on its investigation of the Portland Police Bureau points its own fingers, too. It is critical of the police bureau’s “unconstitutional” overuse of force, including the repeated application of Tasers, on people experiencing or perceived to be experiencing mental illness. It points to the bureau’s administration and deficiencies in policy, training and supervision. We agree, and support the creation of an independent body for police oversight.
The DOJ also cites a lack of capacity in social services to handle mental health crisis situations, including the absence of a crisis triage center. Entire chains of communication had gaping holes between the street and accessing acute care.
Indeed, the report packs its criticism with caveats around limited resources and an inordinate expectation that police officers take care of mental health crises, at least as they appear on the streets, among those facing perhaps the worst moments of their lives.
One finger is missing, however. The one that should be pointing back at Washington D.C. and the health care industrial complex. This is a health care issue, after all, and for all the potential the DOJ report can offer us in terms of reform and improvements, it is a view through the lens of the criminal justice system. Continue reading