In response to the changing landscape of police work and the requirements set forth in the City’s proposed agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Portland Police Bureau has created the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU). The BHU is located within Central Precinct and encompasses and oversees the four tiers of police response to individuals with mental illness or in crisis:
- The core competency crisis intervention training for all officers;
- Enhanced crisis intervention training for a group of officers who volunteer to respond to most crisis calls;
- The proactive Mobile Crisis Unit (MCU) and,
- The Service Coordination Team (SCT).
BHU is commanded by Captain Sara Westbrook, a 27-year-veteran of law enforcement (19 with the Portland Police Bureau and eight with Thurston County and Tumwater, WA); Lieutenant Cliff Bacigalupi, a 16-year-veteran of the Portland Police Bureau; and Sergeant Robert McCormick, an 28-year-veteran of law enforcement (18 with the Portland Police Bureau and 10 with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office).
Officer Amy Bruner-Dehnert, an 8-year-veteran, has been selected as the new Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Coordinator. Officer Bruner-Dehnert also served 20 years in the United States Army, serving in Operation Enduring Freedom (Iraq), retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Officer Bret Burton, a 9-year-veteran of law enforcement (five with the Portland Police Bureau and four with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office), was selected to the Mobile Crisis Unit (MCU) car in July 2012, and works with Averyl Growden, a Licensed Mental Health Professional from Project Respond.
Officer Sean Christian, an 18-year-veteran of law enforcement (five with the Portland Police Bureau and 13 with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office), was selected to the Mobile Crisis Unit in March 2013, and works with Dinah Brooks, a licensed Mental Health Professional from Project Respond.
Officer Josh Silverman, a 3-year-veteran of the Portland Police Bureau, was selected to the Mobile Crisis Unit in March 2013, and works with Cindy Hackett. Cindy has been working with the Police Bureau as a Mobile Crisis Unit clinician since 2010.
The Mobile Crisis Unit will continue to proactively work with individuals who have multiple contacts with police to attempt to connect them with appropriate services in advance of a mental health crisis.
Although all Portland Police Bureau officers will continue to receive crisis intervention training throughout their careers, 50 officers from a variety of patrol assignments have been selected as Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers. These Officers will be the first responders dispatched by 9-1-1 to calls that are determined to be related to an individual in a mental heath crisis. BHU command staff conducted internal background checks on each officer to include complaints, Employee Information Systems (EIS) review, Use of Force review, and immediate supervisor input.
Training for the new CIT officers will begin in May with two sessions and will include: indicators of mental illness; crisis communication skills; interaction with consumers and family members; and education on community resources. The training will include scenarios applying patrol tactics to persons in behavior crisis.
Also under the auspices of the BHU, is the Service Coordination Team (SCT), a program that offers treatment to the City’s most frequent drug and property crime offenders to address their drug and alcohol addictions, mental health issues and criminality. This program has successfully graduated 102 former drug addicts from its treatment program, reducing recidivism among program graduates by 91%.
Officer James Crooker, an 11-year-veteran of law enforcement, has been selected to work in the unit. Officer Crooker has been a Portland Police officer for four years. Prior to that he was a police officer in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and also served in the United States Marine Corps (Staff Sergeant) for 13 years, deploying to Iraq for Operation Enduring Freedom II.
These are some of the initial changes that the Portland Police Bureau is undertaking to respond to the evolving context in which police officers find themselves. The Portland Police Bureau is committed to continuous improvement in our delivery of service to Portland’s most vulnerable communities.