Senate OKs mental illness training for police

from The Oregonian

The Senate voted unanimously Friday to require 24 hours of police training in identifying those with mental illness before officers can be certified.

“We did something very important here today,” said Sen. Avel Gordly, an independent from Portland, who co-sponsored House Bill 2765.

The measure comes on the heels of a number of incidents involving the mentally ill in recent years. Last September, for instance, a schizophrenic man who police mistakenly thought was under the influence of drugs or alcohol died after clashing with police.

After police wrestled James P. Chasse Jr. to the ground — in what one officer described as “chaos” — he was transported to jail. There he passed in and out of consciousness, according to police reports.

Officers decided to take Chasse to the hospital, but he passed out again en route. Officers pulled the car over, and an ambulance took him the rest of the way. Chasse died later that night at Providence Hospital.

The bill, which has passed in the House, is on its way to Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s desk.

The governor plans to sign the bill into law because training to recognize the mentally ill is vital, said Anna Richter Taylor, Kulongoski’s spokeswoman.

But she added the Legislature needs to be certain it builds enough cash into the state budget to pay for the training. It was unclear Friday how much money it would cost to provide that training.

“Absolutely these programs are critical, but we also need to make sure we’re backing up these programs with the funding necessary to execute them,” Richter Taylor said.

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