House passes bill to keep police out of fare enforcement

Politics

Backers of HB 4097 worry police assistance can spark racial profiling

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon House of Representatives has passed a bill that bans police officers from being involved in fare enforcement procedures on public transit.

House Bill 4097 survived a 31-27 vote Tuesday in Salem. 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 Senate for consideration. If passed, it heads to the desk of Governor Kate Brown.

HB 4097’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, according to OPB. 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.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, TriMet officials said their code states fare evasion is not a crime. People can directly resolve their citation with TriMet within 90 days, before going to court. They also said:

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.

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.

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.

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