Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Portland Police Bureau announced Thursday that it has a new Behavioral Health Unit. The group oversees how police respond to people having a mental health crisis.

This unit is part of the Portland Police Bureau's response to a settlement with the Department of Justice. The DOJ had found that the bureau had a pattern of using excessive force against people with mental illnesses.

Along with social service partners, the bureau is trying to improve those responses.

Captain Sara Westbrook was selected to command the new BHU. She says the collaborative, multi-disciplinary nature of the plan is a win.

"We're learning from each other, we're mentoring each other. I'm waiting to see what blossoms from this unit, because it's going to help lead the way for us to figure out what's next, what do we need to do next."

All Portland Police officers will keep receiving crisis intervention training.

50 officers from various assignments were selected to form the BHU. They will receive additional training and be first responders when police are called out to mental health crises.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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