Police collect data using ‘mental health mask’

The data collection is called “The Mental Health Mask.”

PPB seal, file. (KOIN)
PPB seal, file. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Portland Police Bureau is collecting data that officials say is designed to “better capture interactions” of people in mental health crisis or those exhibiting signs of mental illness.

The data being collection is called “The Mental Health Mask.”

The bureau first started using the mental health mask in January and implemented it bureau-wide in March.

Here are some of the data points collected by Community Oversight Advisory Board (COAB) from March 1, 2016 and August 1, 2016.

  • During that timeframe: 91,935 interactions were documented;
  • 5% of the interactions involved a mental health component;
  • 45% of the documented interactions with police occurred in the bureau’s Central Precinct jurisdiction;
  • 29% of the documented interactions with police occurred in the bureau’s East Precinct jurisdiction;
  • 23% of the documented interactions with police occurred in the bureau’s North Precinct jurisdiction
  • 60% of interactions involved male subjects;
  • 38% of interactions involved female subjects;
  • 73% of interactions involved Caucasians;
  • 50% of officers determined the call they documented had a mental health component based on their own observations;
  • 19% of the interactions with a mental health component had an ECIT officer on scene;
  • Force was used 1.2% of interactions with a mental health component;
  • The subject was armed about 3% of the interactions with a mental health component;
  • PPB did not use force in more than 90% of the interactions in which the subject was armed.

Other data released by COAB came from a review of the bureau’s Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT) from January 2013 and June 2016.

According to that data, the “typical” individual BHRT met with was a male Caucasian between the ages of 30-50. The most common reason for referral to BHRT was for “risk to self” and “escalating behavior.”

COAB found that “PPB is very close to achieving capable systems for responding to persons in mental health crisis and measuring outcomes.”

COAB cautioned that mental health mask data is a “work in progress.” To improve reliability, street-level officers must be told that it is important that mask data be “collected completely and accurately.”

According to COAB, after every police interaction, the primary officer on the call will receive an alert from the bureau that requires the officer to identify whether anyone involved with the call exhibited signs of mental illness or crisis. Officers are asked to consider whether people involved in the call demonstrated behaviors like illogical thinking/talking, disorientation/confusion, abnormal behavior/appearance, neglect of self-care, hearing voices/hallucinating, anxious/excited/agitated, paranoid or suspiciousness, severe, depressed mood and suicidal talk or gesture(s).

In Aug. 2014, the United States Department of Justice and the City of Portland reached a settlement to enact changes within the bureau on how officers interact with individuals with actual or perceived mental illness.