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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Campbell's Death: Our Fault, Not The Cops' (At Least, In Part)

Posted by Matt Davis on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 12:12 PM

I had a good time on KBOO this morning with Talk Radio host Lisa Loving—discussing local media and police accountability here in Portland. Why not download the 57 minute show this evening, if you need to cure your insomnia?

KBOO: THEYVE GOT A NICE LOGO...AND YOU CAN TALK AT LENGTH WITHOUT INTERRUPTION, OR LISTENERS, PRESUMABLY
  • KBOO: THEY'VE GOT A NICE LOGO...AND YOU CAN TALK AT LENGTH WITHOUT INTERRUPTION, OR LISTENERS, PRESUMABLY

In addition to speculating at length about the political motives of new Oregonian publisher N.Christian Anderson III, we discussed the fatal shooting by police of Aaron M.Campbell in Northeast Portland last Friday. Specifically, the news stories describing Campbell's death as "suicide by cop," even though subsequent reporting by Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein has shown that witnesses to the incident didn't understand why police shot the man.

I can't commend Bernstein's reporting on this issue highly enough. The fact is, we here at the Mercury didn't have the O's resources or energy, frankly, to dedicate to such in-depth investigation of the incident over the weekend. But if Bernstein hadn't gone at this story like a terrier, then we'd all be simply re-stating the cops' press releases verbatim. And increasingly, it seems that Campbell's death was far from a "suicide by cop."

It's important that we ask tough questions about this specific incident, and that we get them answered. But I did make one point repeatedly on KBOO this morning: That Campbell died at least in part because of inadequate funding for mental health care in the community. And that's our fault, not the cops'.

Campbell died because of the ongoing criminalization of mental illness here in Oregon. If he had gotten adequate medication, counseling, or treatment for his despondent state of mind before he fell into crisis, then there would never have been an opportunity for any cop with an AR-15 rifle to put him in their sights. And that's our fault, not the cops'.

Whatever you may think about the man who pulled the trigger, whatever a grand jury or internal investigation may decide—and frankly I'm not optimistic about either—Campbell died at least in part because we, as a community, don't push our leaders to better fund mental health care in the community, even though it would actually save the state money on emergency room and public safety bills. Because we, as a community, allow our leaders to give funding priority to 12-lane bridges and soccer deals with millionaires, and green energy buildings with grass on the sides while we leave the most glaring funding hole for these poor folks, gaping wide open.

Because we, as a community, don't really care when it comes down to it, I think. And that's our fault, not the cops'.

No matter how much we may gripe about these deaths on KBOO and everywhere else, next time somebody tells me they're appalled about the death of a mentally ill person, or God forbid, that they were "menaced" by some person with mental illness in the street downtown, I'm going to ask them if they've ever called their leaders to ask for better funding for mental health care in the community. And if they say no, then I'm going to urge them to come here and skip to the jump, where you'll find all the numbers and email addresses you may need.

These people do occasionally listen to citizens, when they're not being frantically lobbied by corporate interests.

If you need to find which legislator represents you, use this tool on the state website.

Senator Ginny Burdick
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1718
Email: sen.ginnyburdick@state.or.us

Senator Chip Shields
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1722
District Phone: 503-231-2564
Email: sen.chipshields@state.or.us

Senator Jackie Dingfelder
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1723
Email: sen.jackiedingfelder@state.or.us

Representative Mitch Greenlick
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1433
District Phone: 503-297-2416
Email: rep.mitchgreenlick@state.or.us

Representative Jules Bailey
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1442
Email: rep.julesbailey@state.or.us

Representative Lew Frederick
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1443
Email: rep.lewfrederick@state.or.us

Representative Tina Kotek
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1444
Email: rep.tinakotek@state.or.us

Representative Michael Dembrow
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1445
Email: rep.michaeldembrow@state.or.us

Representative Ben Cannon
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1446
Email: rep.bencannon@state.or.us

Representative Jefferson Smith
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1447
Email: rep.jeffersonsmith@state.or.us

Representative Nick Kahl
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1449
Email: rep.nickkahl@state.or.us

Mayor Sam Adams
(503) 823-4120
samadams@ci.portland.or.us

Amanda Fritz
(503) 823-3008
Amanda@ci.portland.or.us

Nick Fish
(503) 823-3589
nick@ci.portland.or.us

Dan Saltzman
(503) 823 4151
dan@ci.portland.or.us

Commissioner Randy Leonard
(503) 823-4682
rleonard@ci.portland.or.us

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