NAMI Multnomah gets onboard with police reform

NAMI Multnomah Statement on Police Training and Procedures in Portland, Oregon, March 31, 2010

As members of NAMI Multnomah, Portland Metro chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, we seek to protect our loved ones who live with mental illness. We are also concerned about our community members – including police officers who are called on to serve and protect all citizens.

Events in and around the City of Portland have shown that Portland Police Bureau policies, police training and procedures of interaction with those who suffer from mental distress have resulted in tragic consequences for all parties involved. As family members and citizens who deal with mental health issues on a regular basis, it is clear that these failures have harmed not only those who suffer from mental illness and their families and loved ones, but those who are charged with the task of protecting our community, their families and their loved ones. Instead of serving and protecting all citizens and producing good outcomes for all, we have witnessed needless death and destruction of lives and careers.

The results are tragic; the results have broken down the feeling of trust between our citizens and the Police Bureau, and must change.

Our experience with mental illness repeatedly demonstrates that persons in crisis may not hear and are often unable to respond to what are normally considered simple commands. Mental illness often is accompanied by a deficit of thought and loss of logical thinking, especially when accompanied by anxiety and stress. Asking responders to resolve crisis situations without adequate training to recognize and take appropriate action is not working for our community. We can and must do better. Policies, procedures and the training of interaction with people in crisis must reflect the realities of the situation encountered and allow for the resolution of a crisis that protects everyone involved.

We call for fundamental improvements in Portland Police Bureau oversight, training and procedures of crisis engagement so the cycle of personal tragedy for community members with mental illness and irreversible damage to police careers and service will be stopped.

NAMI members can understand that past incidents cannot be changed. NAMI members cannot understand or accept that the future cannot change. To ensure good outcomes for all our citizens, to provide for the safety of all of our loved ones and family members and for the health of our community, change must happen.

Margaret Brayden, NAMI Multnomah E.D.
Terri Walker, President NAMI Multnomah Board of Directors

NAMI Multnomah Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs:
Sylvia Zingeser, NAMI Multnomah representative on Crisis Intervention Team
Don Moore, Past President NAMI Multnomah Board of Directors