Why Portland Street Response wasn’t called to Lents Park Friday

Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Friday’s police shooting of a man in Lents Park happened within the same boundaries that the Portland Street Response pilot program is called to. The team exists to limit interactions between police and unhoused people, or those experiencing a mental health crisis.

When Robert Delgado was shot and killed by a Portland Police officer Friday, some questioned why PPB was on the scene in the first place. 

PPB Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis told reporters on Friday that a 911 caller indicated that there was a man with a gun in the park and that Portland Street Response doesn’t respond to calls when there is a weapon involved.

The team also does not respond to calls in situations where someone is blocking traffic, is threatening violence, suicidal or inside a private residence. 

The Portland Street Response Team is made up of four people: A Portland Fire & Rescue medic, licensed mental health crisis therapist and two community health workers. 

The start of the program was delayed by the pandemic, so it’s still relatively new. They started responding to calls in a small section of the Lents Neighborhood two months ago and just expanded their service to a larger area of Lents at the beginning of April. 

An online interactive dashboard shows that the team has responded to 71 calls so far: 11 in February, 42 in March and 18 in April. 

Out of those calls, the team helped PPB four times.

Willamette Week reported last week that 911 dispatchers aren’t sending the team to as many incidents as it can handle.

The Willamette Week reported that a similar program in Eugene called CAHOOTS responds to about 20% of 911 calls. Portland Street Response meanwhile responds to only 1% of 911 calls.

Otherwise, the team is able to handle a majority of its calls without police or fire, which was the initial goal in the first place.

No one from Portland Street Response responded to any interview requests but the team did send out a statement in response to the death of Robert Delgado. They said they are in the process of “debriefing” the incident as they continue to learn how they can respond to more incidents in the future.

“We meet weekly with our partners at the (Bureau of Emergency Communications) to discuss call types and possible ways to make our program more impactful,” the statement read. “We will be evaluating this event and assessing how we can increase the types of calls we respond on.”

Read the full statement here.

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