Testimony in Support of Care Not Cops: Mental Health Care Not Policing Campaign

Before the Budget Committee Public Hearing:

The National Lawyers Guild Portland Chapter and the National Lawyers Guild Lewis & Clark Law Student Chapter stand in support of the Care Not Cops: Mental Health Care Not Policing campaign and urge Portland City Council to reject the Mayor’s FY 18-19 Portland Police Bureau proposed budget.

The Mayor’s FY 2018-19 proposed budget represents the further criminalization of unhoused people in the name of “livability”; the implementation of a re-styled broken windows model of “community policing” which disproportionately targets poor communities, Black communities, and other communities of color; and a dangerous, increased investment in the failed practice of using police to respond to people experiencing mental health crises.

The proposed budget includes additional funds for “enhancing” police response to mental health crises—a practice that has proven to be not only inadequate and inappropriate but also inhumane. This further investment in funds is particularly unconscionable in light of the recent police killing of John Elifritz inside a homeless shelter. There is no indication that further funds for the police would improve the situation. A recent review of the police bureau found no difference in arrests between officers with or without Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training. Furthermore, the Mental Health Association of Portland found that the average number of police shootings has stayed the same or increased since the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement.

We support the Care Not Cops campaign’s call to decouple mental health crisis response from policing and instead invest in life-affirming responses and resources, including mental health services, health care, and funding for individuals and organizations that have existing relationships with targeted or vulnerable populations.

A budget is a moral document. Rather than adding 49 sworn officer positions and providing an additional $6 million to the police bureau, we call on City Council to reject the proposed budget, divest these resources from policing and criminalization, and instead invest in our communities. Ensure funding for YouthPass in this budget. Commit to investing in that which can truly bring about health and safety, such as housing for all, food security, mental and physical health care, education, and the creation of living wage jobs.

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