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Ask A Cop: Dealing with the mentally ill

(In this space every week a Lake Oswego police officer answers the questions of our readers. Send your questions to staff reporter Cliff Newell by calling 503 636-1281 ext 105 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

"What guidelines does the Lake Oswego Police Department have for officers dealing with mentally ill people?"

BradyIt depends upon the circumstances of the contact and, with police nationally dealing with situations involving persons with mental illnesses approximately 7 to 10 percent of the time, it can vary greatly. Statistics show that about 5 percent of the U.S. population has a serious mental illness. Our department policy deals with civil commitments which, according to the Oregon Revised Statutes, allow for a peace officer to take into custody a person who the officer has probable cause to believe is dangerous to his or herself or to any other person and is in need of immediate care, custody or treatment for mental illness. Unfortunately, not all mentally ill people in crises, also known as emotionally disturbed persons, fall under this definition. Often times police face very limited resources and options as has been the issue for some time now with police officers being the first line of contact dealing with the mentally ill with limited mental health services available. The Lake Oswego Police Department recognizes the importance of preparing its officers for all types of situations and sends all of its officers to Crisis Intervention Team training, which is a 40-hour class that teaches better understanding, communication and de-escalation techniques when dealing with those in crisis.  Dealing with someone that is experiencing a totally different reality than yours is definitely some of the more challenging work that police can have, but the police officers of Lake Oswego do a very good job of managing these events with patience, care and reasonableness.   

— Training Officer Mike Brady



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