Making Changes to How We Approach Safety and Policing

We are going to move $1.8 million in funding from Transit Police and other sources to community-based safety programs.

The safety of our riders and employees will always be a core value. At the same time, we understand there are different ways to ensure that safety.

We believe transit plays a vital role in a fair and just society. It provides access to jobs and mobility for those who can’t afford to own a car, or people who don’t have the ability to drive due to disabilities. Studies have suggested that access to high-quality transit is important in addressing generational poverty. Transit is one of our most important tools in combating climate change.

However, to be effective, transit must be safe and equitable for all. Which is why, after hearing community concerns around different approaches to policing and security, we’re taking immediate actions while also pursuing long-term considerations as part of this year’s budget process.

First, we won’t fill six police positions and will redirect those and additional funds to community-based public safety programs.

Next, starting July 1, we will initiate three efforts to inform a reimagined public safety approach:

  1. Conduct community-wide listening sessions to gather feedback from riders, front-line employees and community members on the best approaches to providing security on our system that is free from bias.
  2. Establish a panel of local and national experts to advise us on national best practices for transit security, equity and community engagement in safety and security.
  3. Pilot new non-police response resources, such as mobile crisis intervention teams for mental and behavioral health issues.

While we are reducing funding to Transit Police, there will still be officers on our system to help prevent crimes against riders and employees. Police will also respond if a serious incident does occur. We’ve seen that having officers dedicated to transit allows them to become familiar with our staff, how the system works and the needs of our riders.

We can see that not all situations require a police response. We’re excited to try alternative approaches to public safety, such as the mobile response crisis programs and other unarmed alternatives.

Equity is not a new interest for us. It’s a foundation of who we are and what we strive to accomplish. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made over the past five years, which includes:

  • Initiating two independent analyses (in 2016 and in 2018) of our fare citation process. These studies found no systemic racial bias.
  • Decriminalizaling of fare enforcement by asking for a change in state law that allows us to resolve fare evasion citations directly with riders, instead of having those citations automatically going to the courts.
  • Reducing the punitive impacts of fare evasion penalties with the potential for reduced fines, community service or enrollment in our Honored Citizen reduced fare program.
  • Creating a low income fare program that has allowed more than 30,000 people to ride with Honored Citizen reduced fare, a 72% discount over our base fare.
  • Changing TriMet Code to clarify that fare evasion is not a crime and discontinuing routine fare checks by police.
  • Increasing unarmed security personnel beginning in 2017 in response to community concerns over a militarized security presence.
  • Working with regional district attorneys to significantly reduce the use of Interfering with Public Transportation (IPT) charges.
  • Implementing additional training for contract security staff and fare inspectors related to community safety practices, de-escalation and non-confrontational interactions.

For more on our equity actions, visit trimet.org/equity.

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