Portland police have hired a mental health professional to go out on crisis calls and have back-filled another position in charge of helping residents find substance use treatment.

Chief Frank Clark also announced that the department has hired a full-time media liaison who will help write news releases and manage the department’s public-facing responses, as well as manage the massive amounts of video data gathered each day from body-worn cameras, dashboard cameras inside police cruisers, and from interview rooms at the police station.

Andrea Taatjes started Monday as the department’s first Alternative Response Liaison and will be responsible for having direct contact with people in crisis. She is expected to work closely with patrol officers, community service providers and the public to assist people with mental health emergencies during and after contact with the police.

Taatjes is a licensed mental health clinician, and most recently worked for Bay State Community Services in Braintree, Massachusetts, the city said. She has 10 years of clinical experience and has worked in the past with youth, adults and families.

The department has also filled a key position in its fight against overdose deaths. William Burns started Monday as the department’s substance use disorder liaison. He replaces Oliver Bradeen, who left the police department to run the Milestone Recovery center.

Burns most recently worked for the city of Saratoga Springs, New York, where one aspect of his work was overseeing the city’s emergency shelter system. From 2011 to 2018, Burns worked at Preble Street as the health services director and coordinator of the adult resource center. He brings 35 years of experience to the role.

The third hire fills a new role of media liaison. David Singer, previously a news anchor and reporter at WGME Channel 13, will be responsible for communicating with the media and the public, a role most recently handled by a member of the police command staff. Singer will also be responsible for managing the massive amounts of video data generated each day from the department’s body-worn camera systems, dashboard cameras inside cruisers and the closed video recording systems inside police interview rooms.

Taatjes and Burns will each be paid $64,701 a year, and Singer will earn $52,806 a year, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said in an email.


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