I’ve recently reported a story about a woman who was attacked by a mentally ill street person in downtown Portland.
But the part of her story which may perplex you the most, isn’t the attack itself. Rather, the way PPB officers behaved when they arrived on scene.
Her story also raises compelling questions about the ways Portland and Oregon have approached this issue as a whole.
I’ll back up a bit;
The woman’s name is Debra Luchs.
She says the attack happened as she made her way into work on the morning of July 26th.
Luchs had taken TriMet to her usual bus stop, not far from the Crown Plaza Hotel at Harbour Drive and Naito Parkway, and had started walking the rest of the way, again – as she usually did.
Luchs says she and another woman from the bus walked together as they approached Naito Pkwy. At about this time, Luchs says she heard a familiar sound. It was a resident homeless man — having a noticeably bad day.
The man’s loud and bizarre behavior was really nothing new to Luchs, but on this day, the man seemed particularly agitated and he would not stop yelling and flailing about.
It became a disturbance for many of the people walking in the area.
The homeless man drew closer to our brave protagonist and her traveling companion, still yelling and flailing.
That’s when another man nearby, possibly another transient, walked up and began yelling at the first transient, demanding he stop yelling and flailing.
It didn’t help. In fact, it only made things worse.
Luchs tells me she then noticed “yelling and flailing man” inexplicably turn his attention toward her — and begin yelling and pointing at her.
Of course, there was no logical reason for him to do that. Luchs was just minding her own business at the time. However, as was obvious, this yelling and flailing homeless man was in the middle of a mental break.
Luchs says the irate homeless man charged at her and the other woman, shoved Luchs to the ground and full-on tackled her traveling companion. The suspect then stumbled onto his feet and ran off.
Luchs says she called 9-1-1 and at that least one witness did so as well.
It’s important to lay out Luchs’ expectations at this point (which may level with our own expectations);
Luchs says she expected police officers to show up and immediately set about trying to catch her attacker. She expected the officers to take complete control of the situation and “save the day”.
Luchs says that isn’t what happened.
She says officers arrived and began taking statements from victims and witnesses, which was typical enough. Some time went by and Luchs says, eventually officers asked her — what she wanted them to do.
“What the hell do you think?! Go get him!”
Those weren’t her exact words, but Luchs says that’s what she was thinking at the time. Luchs tells me police then set about chasing the suspect.
They didn’t catch him.
Now, in all fairness to PPB, witnesses’ suspect descriptions may not have been as useful as one would like. That’s what PPB told me. However, Luchs insists the officers probably could have acted with a fair bit more initiative.
Now — that said — Luchs also wanted to make sure she expressed her understanding about why police officers seemed to hesitate.
She says she understands how police officers are now under a news media microscope and that any questionable use-of-force against mentally ill subjects could potentially mean the end of an officer’s career.
Luchs’ says, and you might agree, this is a problem. She says it’s frustrating to experience first hand and she wishes someone would step forward and solve the problem.
Luchs doesn’t think police officers should be second guessing themselves — ever.
She’s also frustrated that a city asks its police to “serve and protect”, but then is quick to defend mentally compromised and potentially dangerous individuals who roam the streets.
Luchs says she doesn’t understand why the City of Portland and the State of Oregon allow such mentally compromised and potentially dangerous individuals to just — remain completely free and — potentially dangerous.
Just the other day, we had the story about how Portland Police shot and killed an irate homeless man wielding a hatchet and swinging it at people.
Luchs doesn’t understand how Portland is willing to accept that circumstance. She doesn’t understand how it is at all tolerable to have any person — walking around freely — with mental illness — and a hatchet.
At the end of it all, Luchs, a victim — says she doesn’t want to see mentally compromised people kept in cages, shot, or killed. She wants to see them served. But, she also doesn’t believe serving these people means allowing them to freely yell, flail about, or scare people.
For her own part, Luchs says she would prefer to see these folks looked after — by genuine professional caretakers if necessary.
As I’ve found, the closest thing Portland or Oregon have is the PPB Behavioral Health Unit, which is tasked with keeping tabs on mentally ill subjects who find themselves “in the system”.
But that’s about as far as it goes.
Luchs says she thinks there should be more beyond that. She suggests Portland should add more dedicated mental health facilities.
Portland doesn’t seem willing to do that, though — so — we may be stuck.
Perhaps it makes you want to yell and flail about…