Thirteen state legislators have sent a letter to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum asking for a "renewed focus" on creating a equitable transit system, starting with TriMet's fare enforcement practices.
The letter comes on the heels of a court opinion released Friday, where Judge John A. Wittmayer found that a TriMet fare inspector and a transit officer illegally stopped and detained a MAX passenger after asking for her ticket. The 13 Portland-area state legislators urged Rosenblum not to appeal this ruling.
"We, the undersigned, believe this moment presents an opportunity for the impacted agencies to respond with a renewed focus to truly protect and serve the public by developing an equitable, effective transit system," the letter reads.
While Wittmayer's Friday ruling is specifically focused on one incident involving Portlander Ana del Rocío, his explanation suggests that TriMet's mass fare checks on MAX passengers may be wholly unconstitutional.
"Defendant was stopped and seized without individualized suspicion," Wittmayer writes. "Therefore, the stop of defendant was unlawful."
Del Rocío was stopped by a TriMet fare inspector in March in a routine fare check, not unlike stops made by TriMet staff on a weekly basis. If her stop was ruled unconstitutional by Wittmayer, it's likely other standard stops could fall in the same category.
"A policy of sweeping fare enforcement searches violates the constitutional rights of transit riders," the letter reads. "This practice exacerbates disparities in the criminal justice system and contributes to the over policing and over-prosecution of people of color, people with disabilities, and people experiencing homelessness and other forms of economic insecurity."
The letter was also sent to TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey, TriMet Board of Directors, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, and the district attorneys for Portland's three counties.