TriMet considers 'reimagining public safety' recommendations
TriMet received recommendations for "reimagining" its public safety during a Board of Directors retreat on Thursday, Nov. 19.
The recommendations were made by the regional transit agency's Public Safety Advisory Committee following a community involvement process that began in June after hearing calls for racial equity and social justice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others.
The recommendations do not call for TriMet to dismantle any of its existing rider service, safety or security programs, including the Transit Police. Instead, they call for supplementing and supporting the current mix of unarmed and armed personnel.
The committee's top three recommendations include: Expanding training for TriMet employees in anti-racism, cultural competency, mental health and de-escalation; increasing the presence of TriMet personnel to support riders on the transit system; and working with community and jurisdictional partners to develop a crisis intervention team model to address issues on the system that do not warrant a response by law enforcement.
"Discrimination and intimidation have no place in our community, and that includes our transit system," said TriMet General Manager Doug Kelsey. "We've listened to our riders, employees and the community and will take decisive action to ensure our system is safe, secure, accessible and free of bias."
The committee also made some long-range recommendations for TriMet to consider. They include:
• Using technology, such as a smartphone app with real-time reporting functionality, to better support riders and employees.
• Maintaining and updating system infrastructure with features like improved lighting to create more safe and welcoming environments.
• Improving communication, accountability and reporting on safety and security initiatives.
TriMet began the process by reallocating $1.8 million in police contracts and other sources to explore community-based approaches to public safety. The appointed committee included regional thought leaders on community and equity, as well as national transit-security experts. According to TriMet, their recommendations emerged from extensive outreach conducted over several months. Among other things, TriMet launched a "reimagining public safety" webpage and developed an online survey in seven languages. The survey alone generated more than 13,000 responses.
TriMet also worked with the DHM Research polling firm, the Coalition of Communities of Color, Portland United Against Hate and others to conduct dozens of community and agency-partnered focus groups. In addition, TriMet hosted community listening sessions in both English and Spanish.
The recommendations TriMet adopts will supplement and support personnel who currently provide security on the transit system. A mix of unarmed security and customer safety officers, TriMet supervisors, fare inspectors and customer service representatives provide a safety presence, along with transit police officers.
TriMet said it plans to implement the recommendations for the short, medium and long term. With the committee's role winding down, the agency will establish a permanent advisory committee focused on further development and implementation of the recommendations.
TriMet also said it will continue to work with community and jurisdictional partners to share best practices, leverage resources and coordinate efforts and will move forward the committee's recommendation to embrace partnerships in new and innovative ways.
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