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Month: June 2018

Police shooting withstands review

Of the Keizertimes

Note: The author of this article is the reporter who participated in the Deadly Force Review Board.

In dashcam video, Officer Tyler Wampler pulls up next to a sign marking the intersection of Springtime Court Northeast and Chemawa Road Northeast. It is March 14, 2018. In the next 35 seconds a man, suspected of robbing a Pizza Hut on River Road North, will die of a single gunshot.

Ahead of Wampler’s vehicle, where the camera will remain in a fixed view, a red Hyundai Elantra is seen crashed into a white vehicle and the suspect exits the Hyundai in a black mask, carrying a black bag and takes off on foot into the cul de sac. Wampler parks his patrol vehicle on the sidelawn of a residence and exits the vehicle with an AR-15 in hand. He shouts a warning to the suspect that he has the assault rifle in hand and will use it.

Neither man is seen on camera from here on out, but the audio from what is occurring is nearly crystal clear. Within a few seconds, Wampler issues another warning that the suspect will be shot as he chases the man into a single-family residential neighborhood. He repeats a warning again a few seconds later. Somewhere in the next moments the suspect has stopped running away and taken up a position between a large pick-up truck and a larger SUV parked in the driveway of one of the homes. According to testimony provided to a grand jury and police reports, he is looking back at Wampler and other approaching officers and is being asked to show his hands, repeatedly. Wampler and another officer later testify that the man showed one hand, but never both at the same time. About 20 seconds in, the suspect is warned again about the potential of being shot. The suspect is then heard shouting, “I have a gun.” Wampler tells the man to drop his weapon. About the 29-second mark, Wampler issues one more warning, telling the man he will be shot. Shortly thereafer, Wampler apparently sees an opportunity and takes it. A sound, somewhere between a crack and a pop, silences all chatter briefly. The suspect is killed with that single bullet, but it will take another few minutes to be certain the standoff is over.

The video was one of several exhibits examined by a Deadly Force Review Board assembled by the Keizer Police Department (KPD) Tuesday, June 12, to determine whether Wampler acted in accordance with department policy regarding use of force. Such reviews are an uncommon occurrence for KPD. Officers have used deadly force less than a half-dozen times in its more than 30-year history. The March incident was the first time such force has resulted in a death, but review boards have been assembled every time deadly force was used.

Aside from those milestones, this review board was unique in another way. Chief John Teague and Deputy Chief Jeff Kuhns invited a member of the Keizertimes staff to sit on the board and then write about the experience. It’s the first time a civilian, much less a member of the media, has been allowed to do so in the department’s history.

KPD’s use of physical force policy amounts to six pages in a manual that is more than 400 pages long, but it is informed by prominent court cases throughout the country’s history. Three court challenges are given special note. The first is Graham v. Connor, which established “The Objective Test.” The court determined that officers must balance use of force with intrusion on an individual’s freedom from unwarranted search and seizure.

In more practical terms, it established four circumstances to be considered when using reasonable force:

• The severity of the crime. In this instance, the suspect allegedly held two Pizza Hut employees at gunpoint while robbing from a cash register, then led police on a five-minute car chase through a number of residential areas before crashing at Springtime Court. When the suspect’s body was recovered from the scene, a black bag holding the same amount of cash stolen from the Pizza Hut was found next to him.

• The immediacy of the threat. There are multiple ways to view the incident through this lens. Prior to fleeing on foot, the suspect nearly collided with a number of KPD and civilian vehicles while trying to escape in the Hyundai. Many of the close calls were caught on dashcams, but others might have occurred outside those views. When pursuing the suspect on foot, Wampler testified that the suspect looked over his shoulder several times. Sgt. Bob Trump told members of the review board that such actions are considered a high-level threat. Trump summed it up saying, “If the suspect should be focused on getting away, why is he looking back to see where police officers are?”

The suspect also announced to pursuing officers that he had a gun after taking a position of cover between two vehicles. (Note: After the suspect was shot, the gun he possessed was still in his hand. Another non-lethal beanbag shot was fired several minutes later, by another officer, to knock it out of his grasp and be certain that he was not faking an injury to lure officers closer in.) Wampler told a grand jury that he feared for his safety and the safety of his fellow officers on the scene, but the standoff took place in a heavily populated area. Officers and the suspect were in the  middle of a neighborhood with houses on all sides with the potential for additional traffic passing behind on Chemawa Road Northeast or unaware drivers, pedestrians or residents coming around a corner from the end of the cul de sac. All of those circumstances added up to imminent danger.

Was Wampler able to carefully consider every facet of the situation in 35 seconds and make a decision to pull the trigger? That is a valid question, but even a low level of situational awareness would have brought some of the circumstances to the forefront of the average person’s mind.

• An active attempt to resist arrest. By taking up a defensive position, with a weapon, when he had the opportunities to stop running and surrender, the suspect made clear that he intended to resist arrest for at least for as long as the brief standoff lasted.

• An attempt to escape or elude arrest. The suspect attempted to elude police in vehicle and then on foot. Looking back to determine where officers were when he was fleeing on foot – when he might have kept running – implies that he knew a pursuit was happening and intended to escape.

Wampler’s decision to use an AR-15 was also questioned during the course of the review. The suspect was believed to be armed, and as a result, Wampler chose the AR-15. That too, is part of training in defensive tactics, said Trump.

“When the suspect has a handgun we want a rifle because it allows us to be more accurate at a greater distance,” he said.

Another major court case that molded KPD’s use of force policy is Tennessee v. Garner, which established that officers may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

Given the constellation of factors leading up to the event and the suspect’s decision to confront officers rather than continue fleeing, Wampler had cause to believe that a potentially hazardous incident was in the process of unfolding. There are many “what ifs” that will never be answered as a result of Wampler choosing to end the standoff before it unspooled further, but fewer of them conclude without injury or death – possibly of a bystander.

Finally, since 1985, courts have stated law enforcement officers have a responsibility to warn suspects even when using force that is less than deadly but may lead to serious injury. There is no prescribed vocabulary for officers to use in any instance and the duty to warn only applies in situations where time allows it.

It is this space where statements provided to investigators and the testimony given before grand jury are most divergent from audio of the incident. Wampler testified that he warned the suspect that he would be shot; but gave no indication of the exact words he used or how often. (Note: It is possible Wampler legitimately cannot recall fine details of the events as they unfolded.) Wampler had not been allowed to review the video or audio before the review board completed its work and he may choose to never relive the moment. But, when considering all the questions before the review board in relation to the incident, the question of how much time passed between a warning and the shot being fired became the most urgent.

Had Wampler only warned the suspect once and then fired on him half-a-minute later, there would be some question as to whether the suspect understood the situation he had created for himself. However, the first words out of Wampler’s mouth were a warning, as were the last before he pulled the trigger. In less than 35 seconds, he repeated some variation of the phrase “you will be shot” five times.

In an objective world, there is no such thing as a “good” or “clean” shooting but, in this incident, the officer’s actions appear to have met or exceeded every requirement in Keizer Police Department policy.

McNary teacher retiring after 30 years

Of the Keizertimes

After McNary’s 2018 commencement, Gary Bulen called his two older brothers, both retired teachers, and wept.

“Before I knew it I was bawling my head off, out of left field, I lost it,” said Bulen, who is retiring after 30 years of teaching. “I didn’t realize it would be that but it sure turned into that.”

Growing up in Salem and then going to Western Oregon University, Bulen didn’t have much of a choice but to go into education. Along with his two brothers, Bulen’s mom and dad also worked for the Salem-Keizer school district. There had been a Bulen employed with the district since 1955.

Gary Bulen did his student teaching at McNary in the spring of 1986. He was then hired on temporarily in ‘87.

After a little over a year at McKay, Bulen took a permanent position at McNary in ‘91 and never left.

“McNary just has something magical about it,” Bulen said. “Every school ebbs and flows and has its ups and downs but really this is the school that historically people wanted to be at. It’s just a really quality school with quality kids.”

Bulen spent most of his career in the same classroom after becoming activities director in 1994.

“I wanted to be more involved in my school and that was one of the best choices I ever made,” Bulen said. “You run dances and prom and you need volunteers. When I was done (in 2002), I knew how hard it was to get them so I’m always at the prom and dances, track meets. There’s also a payback for it. I think they (students) do recognize that you do go to the plays, that you’re around a lot helping. You get a lot more back than what you put in.”

Bulen taught psychology and history at McNary.

Jessica King, a former student who graduated from McNary four years ago, returned to Bulen’s classroom to wish him well in retirement.

“I had him for history my junior year and then I chose to take psychology my senior year,” King said. “He’s my favorite teacher. He’s fun. He connects with you and wants the best for you.”

Carla Bell, a English teacher at McNary, had Bulen’s current students write letters to him.

There was one common theme in most of the notes. Bulen was their favorite teacher.

One student wrote, “I’ve had a pretty rough year this year and I haven’t really felt like being at school and being in your class actually made me want to be here.”

Another student said, “I genuinely hope the best for you and I hope you know that your enjoyment of teaching is the reason I’m trying to go into it myself.”

“I start getting a little emotional. It’s really special,” Bulen said of reading the letters. “If you have poor self esteem, try retiring. It’s an incredible ego boost. It’s so nice to hear from kids. It’s the whole reason we’re here.”

Bulen is looking forward to the next phase of his life.

“I’m just really ready for a change and to do something else, whatever it might be,” Bulen said. “Take a little break and do a little traveling. I grew up here and all my friends are here. As a history teacher, I do want to go to Europe. My dad was a World War II vet. I want to see where he was at.”

The 30 years have flown by.

“For years you’re kind of anticipating this and it’s pretty surreal that it’s here all of the sudden,” Bulen said. “It’s right in front of you.”

Growth talk dives deep into impacts, options

Of the Keizertimes

The City of Keizer will fall short of the needed space to accommodate its projected growth during the next 30 years. There are ways to mitigate the problem, but it will likely require a lengthy, and costly, divorce from the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) it shares with Salem or revising development codes in a way that could reshape the city dramatically.

Those were two of the big takeaways from a Keizer Growth Workshop hosted by Keizer’s Planning Department and hired consultants on Wednesday, June 6.

Operating under the assumption that Keizer will continue to grow faster than comparable cities in Oregon, the city would need to incorporate another 313 acres into its urban growth boundary with more than 1,600 housing units.

Keizer’s UGB is shared with the City of Salem and it cannot grow beyond previously-established boundaries without Salem’s approval and that of state officials. Only four cities have shared UGB’s in Oregon’s history and disputes over the other one – Eugene and Springfield – were settled legislatively almost a decade ago. It means that there isn’t much precedence for what a divorce of the UGB would entail and, even if that happened, attempts at expanding UGB boundaries in other cities have taken upward of 10 years with mixed results.

As open spaces shrivel in Keizer, it will mean looking more closely at either expanding the UGB or overhauling development codes to accommodate more people. Both options will have costs in terms of dollars and livability, and city officials are looking to establish what those will be before leaping in one direction or the other.

“If our ability to grow in building single family (housing) is difficult, what are options?” said Glen Bolen, a senior planner with OTAK, Inc. “As the lots get smaller and fewer, we have to look at the missing middle – duplexes and multifamily developments in smaller spaces.”

By contrast, if Keizer planned to accommodate some of that growth by expanding the UGB, the first place it would have to look is areas north of the Clear Lake neighborhood where zoning modification would encounter fewer hurdles. Expanding in that area would likely be more attractive to new and current residents, but less so for job-creating business and industry, which would most likely want better access to Interstate 5. Keizer currently has less than one job in city limits per household.

Regardless of the route city officials and residents choose, there will be costs, some quantifiable and others that are more subjective.

“We can talk about how much it costs to build a water treatment plant, but it’s harder to talk about the costs of increased traffic or car crashes,” Bolen said.

Current and new residents, as well as developers, are also going to shoulder the burden of associated costs. Expansion of the UGB might entail adding a second high school or redirecting students currently headed toward McNary High School to North Salem or McKay.

Housing in areas added to the city, in the event of a UGB expansion, might also be priced well beyond the range of the current city residents. Because expanding city infrastructure into new spaces would be largely the responsibility of developers, the costs would be bundled into the prices of property in those areas.

In other places that succeeded in expanding UGBs, system development charges (SDCs) increased about 25 percent, said Bolen. Those increased costs are also figured into the prices of homes in the new areas.

The results of all those forces working in concert puts Keizer in a quandary that’s also being felt in other places trying to determine the next steps in their growth.

“Large cities can’t offer the small town feel many residents desire, and smaller cities can’t cultivate the economic engine to maintain their population,” Bolen said.

The city could also decide not to grow in any significant manner, Bolen added.

“Not growing in Keizer would still be legal. The more important question is are we providing what the community wants?” he said.

The answer to that question will only be determined through resident participation in the process.

Coming soon to Keizer parks: ‘Drone Zones’

Of the Keizertimes

After lengthy debate, the Keizer Parks Advisory board determined that parks users will be able to use drones in Keizer parks, but only in designated areas.

The conversation about drones was part of a larger discussion about updating Keizer’s park rules. Other new additions include a ban on smoking and vaping in parks as well as revised fines for violation of park rules. The revised rules will need to be discussed and formally adopted by the city council before taking effect.

Drone talk got off the ground at the board’s May meeting and continued at the meeting Tuesday, June 12. Board members attempted to walk the line between an outright ban of the devices and allowing them to be used in ways that are unintrusive to other parks users. Anyone who has flown drones in Keizer parks up to this point has been in violation of city ordinance, which was part of the problem.

“If someone brought a drone out during a concert, that would be illegal. Most don’t realize it’s illegal,” said Board Member Matt Lawyer.

Board members attempted to project some of the possible outcomes of any new policy, but it often led back to the same place.

“I think enforcing this is above and beyond what is already enforced is above and beyond what the city can do – unless we say no drones in the park, period,” said Donna Bradley, board member. “The city should back off, let it happen and see if it becomes a nuisance.”

One of the issues the board attempted to navigate was recent complaints to city staff about drone operators dive-bombing dogs at the Keizer Rapids dog park as well as some other park users. While those instances have been limited, Board Member Dylan Juran sided with Bradley with different reasoning.

“Should we ban (drones) just because it is new and scary? I think that with responsible recommendations of rule-following, people should be allowed to do it,” Juran said.

Under the revised rules, drone pilots will need to abide by all applicable Federal Aviation Administration laws and advisories, and only fly in spaces established by city officials. There were no official recommendations from the board as far as what should constitute a “drone zone” in a park, but the open space inside the walking path on the west side of Keizer Rapids Park was repeatedly mentioned as one possibility.

Volcanoes win season opener

Of the Keizertimes

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes opened their season with a 4-3 home victory over the Tri-City Dust Devils.

Opening-day ceremonies included throwing of the first ball by Joe Egli, Keizer’s First Citizen of 2018, and an announcement by Jerry Walker, co-owner of the Volcanoes, that the club has extended its contract with the San Francisco Giants through 2020.

It never was more than a one-run game. The first run came when Tri-City’s Tre Carter led off the top of the third inning with a home run over the right field fence.

Stetson Woods, the Volcanoes’ starting pitcher, then retired the next three batters. The last of the three, Dwayna Williams-Sutton, hit another drive to deep right, but Mikey Edie caught it.

Jose Layer led off the Salem-Keizer third with a double to left field and reached third base on Kyle McPherson’s single to left. Layer then scored as an error by shortstop Owen Miller put Ricardo Genoves on first. The inning ended with the score 1-1.

In the bottom of the fourth, Robinson Medrano put the Volcanoes a run ahead by leading off with a home run to left.

The Dust Devils’ Kelvin Alarcon singled to center to lead off the fifth. After Woods retired the next two batters, Miller brought Alarcon home with a double down the left field line.

Woods then left the game with two runs on four hits, two walks, and two strikeouts in four of two-thirds of an inning. Alejandro De La Rosa relieved him and retired the side.

After scoring just four goals his first season, Williams scored 46 as a sophomore, including a game-winning goal in overtime to defeat rival Sprague.

“I still go back and watch that video to this day, especially when we’re about to play them and I still think about it and hold it over their coach’s head because I keep in touch with him,” Williams said.

Williams scored 46 more goals as a junior and then led the league with 70 as a senior, including seven against Ridgeview, to finish his career with 166.

He was named First Team All-Conference and selected to the Oregon high school all-star game three years in a row.

“It’s a bunch of kids from Portland and the Eugene area and then me,” Williams said of the all-star game. “There’s not a lot of kids from my area that make it to that kind of stuff. Playing with those kids it was basically a little glimpse of what I’m sure it will be like at the next level and it was a lot more fun for me to be able to, not that I don’t trust the guys on my own team, but to know that a pass is going to be a little more perfect, I guess, at that level.”

Western Oregon, a Division-II program, plays in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association.

Authorities’ response to stray bullet? Letters

Of the Keizertimes

Neighbors along the Willamette River in Keizer turned out at the Keizer City Council meeting Monday, June 18, to ask for action in response to a bullet that traveled across the river from a shooting range into a Keizer home.

“He has the right to shoot over there and we have the right to not live in fear. We want to know what has been done and what is going to be done to stop this,” said Rhonda Rich, a resident on Raphael Street North, and a neighbor to the couple whose home was struck by the bullet. “This isn’t a second amendment issue, it’s a public safety issue.”

For now, it seems the only action the city plans on taking is sending a letter and trying to keep pressure on Polk County officials to take action.

On Saturday, June 2, four men were cited for reckless endangering after a bullet they fired from a quarry being used as a shooting range – located across the Willamette River in Polk County – penetrated the exterior wall of a home in the 1300 Block of Raphael Street North and stopped only after striking a backsplash located in the kitchen of the home. One of the homeowners was in the kitchen at the time of the incident.

Keizer residents along the river have requested action twice in the past year. The first time, in September 2017, residents were responding to bullets that strafed trees in Sunset Park and caused park users to flee into the neighborhood.

“I’m angry that we have to be back because of another shooting (incident),” said Rich. “I avoid going in my backyard because I’m afraid of a stray bullet. It’s a matter of responsible gun ownership that isn’t happening.”

A Keizer police sergeant met with the owner of the quarry, Lance Davis, after the September incident and signs were put in place to alert range users to the residences across the river. But, the latest incident resulted in City Attorney Shannon sending a letter to Davis.

“This situation is unacceptable and dangerous. I cannot advise you legally, however I would have to believe that you and your company have some liability in this regard,” Johnson wrote in a letter dated June 13. “The City (of Keizer) urges you to take all action necessary to immediately stop the use of your property as a shooting range. My concern is that any preventative measures will not eliminate the risk that rounds fall into Keizer as long as the property is used as a range.”

In addition, Clark read into the record a letter from Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton sent to Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope.

After speaking with Davis, Garton wrote, “I have asked what his plans were to improve safety and he told me about the plans. Lance has since put up signage in the area indicating that shooting needed to be in an east-west direction instead of a north-south direction. He said he would be relocating the shooting range and signage as soon as they relocate more berms and fencing to make it all safer. He said they will install gates on the property to better control who comes and who goes as they have had random people drive down there and start shooting. Shooting can happen safely over there, they just need to do it in the right place.”

Keizer Police Chief John Teague said neither Keizer police nor the Polk County Sheriff’s Office have leverage in terms of criminal activity other than what’s already occurred.

City Manager Chris Eppley told residents who gathered to request action that the situation was frustrating “but the best opportunity is for civil action to occur and shut down that usage.”

The homeowners are reportedly looking at what can be accomplished through the courts.

“(Davis) has not demonstrated an ability to manage this property responsibly,” Clark added. “We need to keep the pressure on as the property owner moves forward.”

Williams to play at Western Oregon

Of the Keizertimes

Picturing himself on the Western Oregon University lacrosse team was easy for Jonathan Williams.

“I’ve already played for their coach (Dan Hochspeier) and before our season started I went to Western Oregon and did a few practices with the current team and I felt like I fit in pretty well with those guys,” said Williams, a 2018 McNary graduate. “It felt like I was already basically there playing with them. Everything just felt really normal. It didn’t feel like I was out of place or anything. It just felt like I was supposed to be there.”

Western Oregon’s coach is the brother of McNary head coach Mike Hochspeier and Dan coached Williams last summer.

Williams also looked at playing lacrosse at Oregon State but said he felt better at a smaller school.

An assistant coach at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah reached out as well but busy with football Williams wasn’t able to attend one of the team’s recruitment camps.

“I would have had to basically fly out after the (football) game and give whatever energy I had left to a recruitment camp and fly back on Sunday and go to school on Monday and practice,” Williams said. “It just didn’t work out and that was the end of that.”

George Fox and Puget Sound were interested in Williams playing football but neither university has a lacrosse program.

“Of course I still have to go to classes and everything but in the end that’s really what I want out of college is to be able to play college lacrosse,” Williams said.

Williams was first introduced to lacrosse in middle school while watching his older brother play for McNary.

He then made the varsity team as a freshman.

“We had some really good players so it was more of just me trying to get them the ball instead of me being the main scorer,” Williams said.

After scoring just four goals his first season, Williams scored 46 as a sophomore, including a game-winning goal in overtime to defeat rival Sprague.

“I still go back and watch that video to this day, especially when we’re about to play them and I still think about it and hold it over their coach’s head because I keep in touch with him,” Williams said.

Williams scored 46 more goals as a junior and then led the league with 70 as a senior, including seven against Ridgeview, to finish his career with 166.

He was named First Team All-Conference and selected to the Oregon high school all-star game three years in a row.

“It’s a bunch of kids from Portland and the Eugene area and then me,” Williams said of the all-star game. “There’s not a lot of kids from my area that make it to that kind of stuff. Playing with those kids it was basically a little glimpse of what I’m sure it will be like at the next level and it was a lot more fun for me to be able to, not that I don’t trust the guys on my own team, but to know that a pass is going to be a little more perfect, I guess, at that level.”

Western Oregon, a Division-II program, plays in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association.

“Born to Fish: How an Obsessed Angler Became the World’s Greatest Striped Bass Fisherman” by Tim Gallagher & Greg Myerson

c.2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$26.00 / higher in Canada
205 pages

Book review by Terri Schlichenmeyer

It was not your typical romance.

She fell for the first line you fed her and she played hard-to-get, but she was a beauty and she was worth every ounce of effort. A catch like her doesn’t come along every day, and in the new book “Born to Fish” by Tim Gallagher & Greg Myerson, you had her for sure, hook, line, and sinker.

By the time he was two years old, Greg Myerson was already fascinated by fishing. As the story goes, he was caught more than once with his toy rod and reel, trying to make a catch in the drainage ditch in front of his parents’ Connecticut  home.

Not long after that, though he was barely old enough for school, Myerson understood that his soul needed the outdoors to thrive and he spent hours alone, exploring the woods just beyond his back yard. He was never good with a classroom, but he got by; the best thing he gained from school were friends who taught him better ways to hunt and fish, and they showed Myerson the fine art of trapping.

At age eight, he was already determined to have a skiff of his own so that he could fish for striped bass in the ocean near his home; trapping muskrats and selling pelts would get him to that goal within two years. His parents were wise to what he was doing by then but, despite their wishes and that of the Coast Guard, ten-year-old Myerson began taking his new boat asea, into dangerous parts of the water. His fascination with fishing had become a full-blown obsession that only grew.

The summer after his first year at college, the obsession finally paid off when Myerson, who’d been ruminating on an idea, had a breakthrough that led to the catching of a record-smashing fish of epic size.

And that fish led to a fisherman’s change-of-heart…

First, this: “Born to Fish” can be a struggle to read.

To start, there seems to be a lot of repetition. That may be because, unlike most other biographies that offer a little more surrounding backstory, this book is almost completely about co-author Greg Myerson. You’ll read about his life in fishing, but also about a lot of fights and disregard for rules and laws, and that gets pretty stale. We’re also offered tales of elementary-school children alone on boats, and with guns.

And yet, there’s the fishing.

Co-author Tim Gallagher tells heart-pounding stories of landing the biggest of the big ones, tales that will thrill even the most neophyte of fishermen. Those parts of this book are like sitting around in the bait shop, ears open to tales of lures, equipment, boats and motors, and long battles with water monsters.

In the end, what you want from a book will determine how much you’ll like this one: if you come for the sport, then “Born to Fish” will hook you easy enough. If you’re looking for biography, though, let this book be the One That Got Away.

“Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracas” by Mark Kurlansky

c.2018, Bloomsbury
$29.00 / $39.00 Canada
385 pages

Book review by Terri Schlichenmeyer

Your cookies are no good today.

They’re too crumbly, too soft, too… something. They don’t taste right, maybe because you’re missing an essential from your fridge. Ach, no snacks for you; instead, you might as well dunk into “Milk! A 10,000-Year Food Fracas” by Mark Kurlansky.

In the beginning, there was Earth – sprang from milk, if you subscribed to the beliefs of the Fulani of West Africa, the Norse, Iraqis, the Egyptians, or the Greeks. They and others had milk or lactating women at the forefront of their creation myths, which made things easy for them to explain.

Even so, there’s no denying that farmers were in on this history.

“Each species has its own unique milk,” says Kurlansky, and though it should be no surprise that simian product is “closest to that of humans,” virtually nobody ever has a refreshing glass of monkey milk. Instead, we mostly drink cow or goat milk, as we have for the last 10,000 years since herding began, though mule milk may be better for us, and pig milk is likewise palatable.

Even so, it’s possible that the first time milk was taken from an animal, it wasn’t meant to be consumed in liquid form: it was probably meant to become cheese, yogurt, butter, or something portable and less liable to spoil. Nobody knows when those products began, but curds show up in ancient text and the Greeks knew how to make feta. Ice cream, by the way, surely has roots that are ancient but it wasn’t written-about until surprisingly later in history. By the time that happened, Europeans had already literally changed the landscape with cows they brought with them to the New World; settlers underscored that by accepting milk cows from England , and new dairy practices.

As for the littlest milk-drinkers, wet nurses were often employed for reasons of illness, convenience, or vanity on behalf of the mother. Maybe that was safer anyway, because drinking cross-species milk was sometimes chancy and could even be deadly but, says Kurlansky, by the late 1800s, there was “a scientist in France who had a theory.”

You may not believe that there’s a lot to consume about a basic substance like milk. All you know is that you can’t touch the stuff, but hold on. Inside “Milk,” there’s a surprising fact about lactose intolerance, and a whole lot more.

Starting in antiquity and bringing us up to modern times (and modern problems), author Mark Kurlansky exhaustively examines everything you ever wanted to know about milk but didn’t know enough to ask. Kurlansky writes about humans, milk, and human milk. We learn that dairying was perceived as playing in Marie Antoinette’s time. We see how American history would look vastly different without cows. Kurlansky shares other facts and looks at esoteric milk-based foods that have been enjoyed through the ages – and he includes recipes for the brave.

While this book is absolutely entertaining, it may be best-suited for foodies, historians, and the curious. If you got “Milk,” you’ll know exactly how t
he cookies crumble.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin

Would you know what to do in a mental health crisis?

Of the Keizertimes

News of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide was the first alert on my tablet when I awoke Friday, June 8. What followed was hours, then days, of would’ves, could’ves and should’ves voiced by people who knew him well and those that didn’t.

I’ve written previously, and in hyperbolic fashion, about the hardest words to say in the English language, but time and experience are still teaching me that such difficulty is the direct result of context. When someone angers us, we have to find our way back to “I love you.” When someone we love is being abused, we need to silence doubt and say, “I believe you, and it’s not your fault.” When someone is under assault by their own mind and looking for a way out, we have to ask, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” And then, if the response is “no,” ask again.

Under the right circumstances, each of those phrases is an oversized elephant in a claustrophobic room and knowing what to do when the moment arrives can be a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, we often wait until life doles out a hard lesson before seeking out what we might do to prevent tragedy. I’m weary of tragedy, in my personal life and in the more difficult aspects of my job. It’s why, less than 24 hours before news of Bourdain’s death broke, I was in Corvallis taking a class in mental health first aid for youth.

Developed in Australia, the Mental Health First Aid curriculum is now taught internationally and throughout the United States. It is a free, eight-hour crash course in what to do when someone you know, love, or barely know, is experiencing a mental health crisis. The course is offered occasionally in the Salem-Keizer community but more frequently in Corvallis and Portland. There are courses that focus on adults in addition to the ones that focus on youth as well as Spanish-language options. A full list of upcoming free classes in the area can be found at

I opted for youth curriculum because I’m the parent of a teenager and because I volunteer with a group of creative writing enthusiasts at McNary High School. I don’t want to be wondering what to do if confronted with a crisis in either circumstance.

Like most things in modern life, Mental Health First Aid has been reduced to an acronym, ALGEE. It stands for: Assess for risk of harm or suicide; Listen non-judgmentally; Give reassurance and information; Encourage professional help; and Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Assessing is one of the trickier aspects of the technique because, as adults, we are given to chalking up out-of-the-ordinary signs and signals to teenage angst when darker forces might be at play. However, look for physical signs of distress like uncharacteristically high energy, binge activity, excessive crying or long periods of isolation in a bathroom or bedroom. Pay particular attention when those signs present themselves as wild swings in mood or interfere with motivation, appearance, or social abilities.

Listening non-judgmentally is another place where people tend to stumble. Responses to pain we cannot quantify typically fall into neat categories such as telling the person they are wrong to feel what they feel, trying to coach them up by pointing out the things they have going for them or being dismissive of the emotions at play all together.

Instead, maintain eye contact; reiterate what the person is telling you so they know they are being heard and understood. Ask questions about what they are feeling while realizing there are elements to mental crisis, like cultural backgrounds and experiences, that we, as first aiders, have no equivalent for.  Acknowledge that what the person is feeling is real, and be empathetic and accepting even though you may not agree.

When giving reassurance and information, focus on hope without making promises. Remind the person that others have found healing and that assistance can come from any number of sources. Instead of telling a someone that “it gets better after [insert current life obstacle],” try telling them that their world is going to get bigger. Refrain from telling the person what they need to do or should do. Look for commonalities between your experiences and theirs. Talk about your experience and invite the person in crisis to talk about theirs and how the two differ. Don’t fixate on outward things like weight, injuries or substance use, try to understand the underlying issues.

Encourage professional help without trying to fix things. There are numerous local avenues for support ranging from hotlines to group therapy. Encourage the person to reach out to one of them. In addition to counselors, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians, social workers, drug and alcohol specialists, dietitians and certified peer counselors are options. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (put it in your phone contact list now).

Encouraging self-help means identifying the people or activities in the person’s life that might be of the most assistance. Help them explore activities that might bolster their mental health, like regular exercise. Engage family members as well as the person experiencing the crisis. The most important protective factor for a youth against a mental health crisis is feeling close to at least one adult. You may be that person or you might be able to help identify that person. Don’t underestimate your potential impact.

Despite all your preparation, the person you are dealing with may be at wits’ end. If you think there is a chance to intervene, ask the person directly if they are thinking of killing themselves. (You should practice this before you need to do it in person). It’s unlikely anyone has killed themselves because someone asked if they are feeling suicidal, the idea was already there, just unvocalized. If they say “no,” ask again. Someone might be able to shrug off the first inquiry, it’s harder the second time.

If they say, “yes,” ask if they have decided how. If they know how, ask if they’ve decided when. If they know when, ask if they’ve gotten the things they need pull it off. The more answers they have along this line of questioning, the closer they are to a suicide attempt. Be comfortable in silence while waiting for answers. Sit with the person while they talk to someone or until someone else arrives who can relieve you, but do not leave them alone if you believe self-harm or harm to others is imminent.

Finally, if you are concerned that harm is imminent and it’s beyond your abilities, call 9-1-1. You don’t have to walk someone through the whole process, but being there at the right time for the right person can make a difference even if it is only a short contact.

Please don’t take reading this article as a be-all, end-all training. The course takes eight hours to complete and it will leave you feeling better prepared, but there is always more to learn. Mental illness and mental disorders take varying forms and participants in my class were also given a free textbook that detail support strategies for many of them.

It would be disingenuous to think that we might prevent every death by suicide, but suicide rates in the United States have shot up 30 percent in the past 19 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Being prepared to have a difficult conversation with someone in crisis might help reverse that trend.