January 15, 2021 22:47
A protest that formed around a crisis call involving a man holding a knife downtown prompted a call for help citywide.
On Friday, January 15, 2021 at about 1:00p.m., Central Precinct officers responded to a welfare check call outside an apartment building in the 300 block of Southwest 4th Avenue. The call indicated that a man had jumped from a second story window of the building, pulled out a knife, and began waving it around at people and cars going by.
The 30-year-old man showed arriving officers his knife, held it to his neck, and said he would kill himself if they came any closer. An Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT) officer began a dialogue with the man in crisis, while other officers attempted to clear the area hoping to reduce the stress of the situation. The officers learned that the man was schizophrenic and extremely paranoid. He not only threatened to kill himself, he said he would hurt others as well. Rather than rush in, exacerbating a dangerous situation, officers slowed down, kept their distance, and exercised patience and de-escalation.
The negotiation lasted for about 90 minutes before two separate crowds of protesters began showing up to the north and south. Some in the crowd began chanting, and one even started using a bullhorn. The extra noise and distraction made it impossible for the specially trained officers to speak to the man. Officers implored the crowd to stop interfering, but their energy only increased. Even when the suicidal man's mother arrived and begged the crowd to stop, most in the crowd continued. Some in the crowd began threatening the officers. A supervisor requested resources citywide, and all available officers responded from North and East Precincts. This caused a major resource drain citywide and all but the highest priority calls had to wait. The officers had to don helmets and face shields to protect themselves as they stood in front of the hostile crowd.
The officers consulted with the Crisis Negotiation Team, whose members were able to find a mental health professional familiar with the man. They learned that the man could be a threat to himself and violent toward others. After over 3 hours of negotiation, the incident commander set into motion a plan to take the man into custody. A K9 unit was used to divert his attention by barking so officers could safely approach him. A Conducted Electrical Weapon (CEW, or Taser) was used to prevent him from using the knife, and he was taken into custody and transported by ambulance to a hospital. Besides the punctures from the CEW probes, he was uninjured. Officers placed him on a Police Officer Hold so that he could be evaluated by medical professionals.
The only force used against the protesters was some pushing to keep them back and out of the street.
As primary responders to crisis calls, all Portland Police Bureau officers receive basic Crisis Intervention Training as well as annual CIT refresher training. In addition, the Bureau has volunteer officers from a variety of patrol assignments on the Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team (ECIT). These officers will be the first responders dispatched by 9-1-1 to crisis calls that are determined to be related to an individual with mental illness. ECIT officers receive additional training in order to identify risks during a behavioral crisis, utilize crisis communication techniques to help deescalate a person in crisis, and have knowledge of available community resources.
Help is available for community members struggling from a mental health crisis and/or suicidal thoughts. Suicide is preventable.
The Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center is available 24 hours a day at 503-988-4888.
If you or someone you know is in mental health crisis please visit Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare's Urgent Walk-In Clinic. The clinic is located at 4212 Southeast Division Street and is open from 7am to 10:30pm, 7 days a week. Services are free and available to individuals of all ages.
Lines for Life is also available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Information about the Portland Police Bureau's Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) and additional resources can be found by visiting http://portlandoregon.gov/police/bhu
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