TriMet is concerned about a bill passed by the Oregon House of Representatives on Tuesday that bans police officers from being involved in fare enforcement procedures on public transit.
House passes bill to keep police out of fare enforcementTriMet, Portland's provider for bus, light rail and commuter rail service, argues that police presence provides much-needed assistance for fare enforcers. The agency said about 18% of commuters ride without paying fares.
"TriMet's top priority is keeping our riders, staff and community safe. While uniformed police officers have a limited role in fare enforcement, they play a critical role in ensuring the safety of the system. That is why TriMet opposes legislation that would prevent police officers from ensuring that the system is safe for all users and appropriately supporting our fare enforcement staff as they do their work," TriMet said.
But House Bill 4097 survived a 31 to 27 vote in the House on Feb. 16. It prohibits police officers from "conducting or participating in activities intended to determine whether person has paid certain user charges, fees or tolls imposed by mass transit district."
The bill now moves to the State Senate for consideration. If passed, it heads to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.
The bill's origins stem from an incident involving one of the constituents of chief sponsor Rep. Diego Hernandez of Portland. In 2018, a woman was stopped and arrested during a fare-enforcement operation on TriMet. A judge later ruled the woman's rights were violated in the incident.
Hernandez has said police assisting in such operations can lead to racial profiling. He said police assisting in such operations can lead to racial profiling.
"Currently, Transit Police officers do not regularly check fares because fare evasion is not a crime, rather it is a violation. However, in responding to disturbances on buses and trains, police officers may check fares as a way of deescalating a situation or to determine if the person or persons involved have a valid fare to ride the system. This is just like a police officer asking to see someone's driver's license if they are driving erratically," TriMet said.
"Also, TriMet needs the flexibility for police officers to assist in fare enforcement efforts and, as needed, provide safety for our employees and riders during fare checks."
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.
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