TriMet approves budget with funds for controversial new Transit Police precinct
The TriMet board of directors unanimously approved a $1.2 billion budget Wednesday morning that includes funding for a new Transit Police Central Precinct.
Numerous witnesses testified against the precinct at the beginning of the meeting, calling it a "transit jail" that will lead to increased "militarization" of the police force that patrols the regional transit agency's bus and rail lines.
"This is an unnecessary police expansion," said David Bouchard, chair of the Bus Rider Unite Research and Advisory Committee, who charged that transit police officers intentionally target minority and low-income riders for fare enforcement. His comments were echoed by representatives of other groups, including Physicians for Social Responsibility, Jobs for Justice, and the Transportation Justice Alliance.
But board members said TriMet has taken steps to reduce disproportionate enforcement against minority and low-income riders, and insisted the officers are necessary to keep riders and employees safe.
"There are no funds in this budget for a jail. TriMet is not authorized to build or operate a jail," said board member Craig Prosser, who clarified the new precinct will have two holding cells for violators, like the current precinct.
TriMet has signed a contract with Prosper Portland, formerly known as the Portland Development Commission, to open the precinct in a new parking garage it will own that supports the Oregon Convention Center Hyatt Regency Hotel. Ground for that project is expected to be broken by this fall.
The new precinct will be located near the Rose Quarter. It will replace one in Old Town/China Town that TriMet says is inadequate for current and future needs.
Board member Dr. Linda Simmons was absent for the vote.
You can read an earlier Portland Tribune story on the issue at tinyurl.com/l7jk84g.