Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch speaks out on police use of force and mental illness

When it comes to handling crisis calls, Portland police have gained a sad reputation: all too often, the person in distress is brutalized or killed. Is Portland a danger zone for people with mental illness? We spoke with Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, an advocacy group promoting police accountability. In Part 1 of our interview, Handelman talks about “suicide by cop,” Crisis Intervention Team training, and the disturbing mentality that can lead to tragedy. In Part 2, we ask about PTSD among police officers, and the best way to respond to a person in crisis.

Portland Mental Health Examiner: “A mental health worker recently told me that in the hospital, many, many patients talk about how easy it would be to commit ‘suicide by cop.’”

Dan Handelman: “Well, I don’t like that term, ‘suicide by cop,’ at all. I think it’s a misnomer, because suicide implies a person takes their own life. If the police shoot you, it’s still a homicide. They might want to call it legally justifiable – that’s the business of the courts – but just because you feel like you’d like to die, doesn’t mean the police have to comply with your desires.

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