Last year there were six police shootings—four of them resulted in civilian deaths. So far in 2011, there have been two police shootings. In the final weeks of 2010 and the first days in January, there was a record set for the most officer involved shootings in a short amount of time (5 in 40 days). Not a record to be proud of, for sure.
Portland Police Chief and other officials are looking at each case and what can be done to bring these numbers down. To be certain, cuts in mental health programming throughout the community has led to a division of the population being more agitated and more prone to criminality. But mental illness can’t possibly be to blame entirely.
One group is in their ninth month of studying police encounters with the mentally ill. Made up of public health professionals and law enforcement officials alike, the group is analyzing 40 nonfatal encounters that have occurred since March 2009. According to the Oregonian, the city is ready to award a contract to another study group—the Office of Independent Review who will look at all police shootings from 2004 to the present.
The Chief of Police states they are investigating all options to reduce police uses of deadly force to include other tools including shotgun propelled tasers and ionized air, to name a few. He states he is confident that his officers are trained well and acting appropriately, though he is also concerned about all of the shootings. “there’s too many. I consider one too many. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent officers from aging to use their firearms” he says.
Within law enforcement, officers are required to act within what’s often called a “use of force continuum”. This means that for the level of resistance offered by a suspect, the officer is allowed to offer force which is one step elevated to gain control. This prevents officers from going too far and ensures they are using the minimal amount of force necessary to gain control of the situation.
By potentially adding tools or non lethal weapons to the officer’s arsenal, the administration is essentially giving them additional options within the continuum—things to try before resorting to the final choice, deadly force.
As Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch states, however, the police received a good deal of crisis intervention training to its officers in the wake of one civilian death and the further police shootings seem to indicate this training is not being used to “its full extent.”
The use of deadly force in Portland is definitely disproportionate for a city of this size and something that must be addressed. Whether that comes from increased training, improved mental health resources, or additional equipment the community deserves to feel safe.
Police encounters can be scary even when no force is used. This is especially true if the encounter ends with your arrest. If you’ve been arrested and are facing criminal charges in Oregon, contact our attorneys for a consultation on your case today.