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Portland Alternative Response Program Limited by Police Deal

A program in Portland, Or., that sends medical and mental health clinicians to emergencies instead of armed police will not be able to respond to suicide and indoor incidents because of an agreement with a police union, reports Courthouse News Service. The program, Portland Street Response, is poised to enter its second year along with a city-wide rollout. A six-month evaluation found that the program was successful in treating people experiencing an mental health crisis. New limitations and an announcement that the city will not replace police jobs goes against what some advocates had said they wanted and may limit the program's effectiveness. "I feel optimistic about it, that we’ll be able to start going to calls indoors and responding to suicide calls, but all of that is still being discussed and negotiated," said the program's Caryn Brooks.


Alternative response programs like the PSR have gained traction around the U.S. with aims to reduce police violence while serving community members during emergencies. While the program is intended to be independent of police, Police Association president Aaron Schmautz says it is important police are part of the conversation, especially regarding the dispatch funcition. He said that programs like the PSR allow police to focus on public safety and crimes. Schmautz called for nearly doubling the police force.


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