Tuesday, June 25, 2013
THE BULLSHIT PILES UP HIGH AT TRIMET
Contact Bruce Hansen
Perception Not Protection
Two TriMet operators had a close encounter of a terrifying kind while at work last Thursday afternoon. The operators were waiting at the 82nd and Powell bus stop. Operators consider this to be a particularly dangerous bus stop for their passengers and themselves.
The incident started when the operators were accosted by a hysterical man who claimed that another man, then inside the adjacent 7-11, was going to shoot him. A police car pulled in and the operators directed the upset man to the police officer. The officer left, leaving the upset man behind.
Less than five minutes later a second man appeared, gun in hand. He charged at the operators, his gun pointed at them. By the time he stopped advancing, the gun he held was four inches from one operator’s face. That operator tried to calm the man down who was shouting he was going to blow the operator’s *&^%! head off. Into the middle of the scene jumped the hysterical man. During that distraction, one of the operators was able to stop and board a passing bus where she put out a radio call for help.
The two men walked away arguing. They stayed in sight for at least three blocks with the gun visible the entire time. As soon as the men left, the remaining operator called 911. What was bizarre about this whole episode was that an unmarked Portland police car sat just across the street the entire time. Instead, the first to arrive was a TriMet road supervisor. He’d heard the radio call and left his district to rush to the scene. It was not until ten minutes after the 911 call that a TriMet transit police officer showed up.
What is sad about this situation is the total lack of interest or support these two operators have received from TriMet management. Both were taken off work by their doctors. No transport was offered to them after the incident; no phone calls of concern were made to their homes.
What is ironic is that, just before this incident, one of the operators was in a meeting with TriMet’s executive director of safety and security. It was explained that TriMet could report fewer annual assaults on operators because they had created a new category called “harassment.” Now, what were formally “assaults,” are entered in the “harassment” column. Result: Assaults on operators are down.
“This lack of concern is nothing new,” says Amalgamated Transit Union president, Bruce Hansen. “TriMet offered a $1000 reward when someone put a rock on the tracks. Until we complained to the Board, no reward was offered when an operator got stabbed. It’s all about public perception, not human caring.”