Outlaw: ‘Where is mental health system accountability?’

Civic Affairs

Koben Henriksen had 2 previous recent encounters with police

Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw held a press conference about the Portland protests on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — PPB Chief Danielle Outlaw wondered where is the “level of accountability throughout the mental health system” to deal with cases such as Koben Henriksen, the man shot and killed by Portland police on December 8 who had recent encounters with officers. Both earlier incidents ended without any use of force.

“Unfortunately, in the most recent encounter, the outcome was different, which is a tragedy for all involved, including family, the community, the officers, and PPB personnel,” Outlaw said in a statement released Thursday. “The negative impacts are deep and oftentimes irreversible.”

One person was shot and killed by Portland Police near SE 103rd Avenue and SE Stark Street. December 8, 2019 (KOIN)

Outlaw said both times — on August 22 and November 14 — it seems mental health was a factor.

In the first incident, Henriksen was camped on private property and Portland Adventist Academy. Henriksen that day told police he was glad they were there “because he needed someone to kill him and he thought police officers were the best option,” officials said. The officer talked with Henriksen, called for an ambulance and got him taken to Portland Adventist for treatment. No force was used.

The second incident was more involved. Henriksen spotted a patrol car in the 10200 block of SE Stark around 11:30 a.m. and began yelling at the officer. He had a large blanket around him.

Roughly 30 police units are at a taped-off crime scene in Southeast Portland Sunday afternoon. December 8, 2019 (KOIN)

When he got rid of the blanket, the officer saw Henriksen had a knife in each hand with the blades extended. Authorities said Henriksen threatened to kill the officer, who yelled back to drop the knives.

Officers requested backup and used their patrol car as cover. The officer spoke with Henriksen, who listened to the commands and dropped the knives. He was taken into custody and taken to Providence Hospital without any force being used, officials said.

Outlaw calls for mental health accountability

Chief Outlaw said releasing this information isn’t intended to sway any investigation or “tarnish the character” of Henriksen.

There are a number of accountability measures in effect for the officers involved, which will scrutinize their every action and decision. Where is the same level of accountability throughout the mental health system?

– PPB Chief danielle outlaw

“This series of cases highlights the systemic failures of the mental health system, which continues to recycle individuals rather than resolve the underlying issues. New ideas, such as the Portland Street Response project, are welcome, but would not have resolved this issue differently because that team would not have been dispatched due to the nature of the call involving an armed individual,” Outlaw said.

She noted the officers involved are held accountable for their actions, but said the mental health system isn’t.

“Law enforcement professionals are put in an impossible position and we need the public to help prioritize effective and humane mental health treatment and demand urgent and immediate action,” Outlaw said.

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