Changes to security and police presence on public transit could be in Portland’s future, judging by a survey TriMet is currently asking its riders to complete.
Last month, TriMet passed an annual budget that included $1.8 million for rethinking public safety on board the agency’s buses and trains. The move came shortly after Mayor Ted Wheeler, acting in his role as police commissioner, pledged to remove Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers from the regional Transit Division, which serves TriMet, by 2021. (Officers from other nearby police jurisdictions, such as the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Officer, will remain part of the Transit Division.)
Wheeler’s decision to remove PPB from the division came amid mass protests against police brutality and racial injustice—and TriMet has faced a fair amount of scrutiny in recent years for how its police officers, contracted security guards, and fare enforcement staffers make people of color feel unsafe.
In 2018, TriMet changed its fare enforcement protocol after a Multnomah County judge found that the agency’s random fare checks were unconstitutional. Last year, the agency beefed up its fare enforcement team and faced backlash for a short-lived advertising campaign that seemed to shame people who couldn’t pay for transit fare. A June report from the Portland City Auditor’s Independent Police Review found that the Transit Division didn't have adequate police accountability, because police officers on TriMet vehicles come from so many different police agencies with different procedures.
Now, TriMet is asking the public for feedback on how its police and security presence affects riders. A new TriMet public safety survey asks riders about what makes them feel safe or unsafe while using TriMet, and what changes the agency could make:
It also asks riders which solutions TriMet should explore for helping riders feel more safe. Those options include: a phone app for reporting incidents in real time; anti-racism, mental health, and de-escalation training for TriMet staff; a transparent reporting system from crime on transit; and rider advocates whose job it is to help riders. Another option is a pilot program for mobile health crisis teams that would respond to riders experiencing “behavioral, mental health, or quality of life issues”—rather than police officers or security guards. That option sounds similar to the Portland Street Response pilot, an alternative to policing that Portland City Council approved last year.
TriMet’s survey will be followed up with listening sessions and virtual town halls that begin next month, and the creation of a Transit Safety Advisory Committee that will submit recommendations to TriMet’s management team in October.
You can let TriMet know what you think of their police and security presence by taking the survey here.