Dear Brothers and sisters:
While on the bus last week, I reread a sticker that said, “It is a felony under Oregon law to assault an operator while he or she is operating a public transit vehicle.” It cites ORS 163.165 as the law that defines an assault as a felony. BUT, let’s take a look at the law itself: 163.165¹
(d) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes, by means other than a motor vehicle, physical injury to the operator of a public transit vehicle while the operator is in control of or operating the vehicle. As used in this paragraph, public transit vehicle has the meaning given that term in ORS 166.116 (Interfering with public transportation)
To put it in layman’s terms, the bus has to be “moving” in order to classify as a felony. If the bus “is not moving” it will be relegated to the lesser charge of Interfering with public transportation. Let’s take a look at this lesser law: 166.116¹
Interfering with public transportation
(1) A person commits the crime of interfering with public transportation if the person:
(a) Intentionally or knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or on a public transit vehicle or public transit station;
(b) Intentionally or knowingly interferes with the provision or use of public transportation services by, among other things, interfering with the movement of, or access to, public transit vehicles;
(c) While in or on a public transit vehicle or public transit station, engages in disorderly conduct in the second degree as defined in ORS 166.025 (Disorderly conduct in the second degree); or
(d) Subjects a public transportation passenger, employee, agent or security officer or transit police officer to offensive physical contact.
The point to all of this is that when we started, we were told that assaulting a bus operator was a felony which turns out to be a halve truth. Remember when our Sister Pam Thompson was assaulted and received a terrible beating at the hands of a man who got upset for not paying his proper fare and took it out on her? Can you remember hearing her voice and shake inside with anger that this is happening to a wonderful woman as Pam (Suspect arrested in TriMet bus driver attack ) or any one of hundreds in the past three years, or the three that happened in January? We were all shaking our heads thinking that this man deserved serious jail time, and he didn’t, this is why. Remember when our paid representatives had the opportunity to turn things around with actions and not just words (TriMet drivers concerned after suspect's release) or the company standard response (ROBERTA ALDSTEDT EVADES THE QUESTION )? Must we continue asking ourselves, “are we any safer out there than any other time in the past? So far neither side has addressed it with any serious push to provide “reasonable” safety for the essential employee. As stated in the past, WHAT WILL IT TAKE??
Well, since there has been no solution to this on-going issue; here is one GET THE LAW CHANGED! Since we spend $$$$$$ per years on Lobbyist, which has not gotten anything substantively (that members know of) and join with the company’s Lobbyist and take it to the Legislature in a joint effort to get something concrete to make it a felony. Sitting back and doing nothing, like business as usual will not protect the next operator.
Lastly, don’t be lolled into a false since of security thinking that this law will be a deterrent when it is clearly misleading. I implore fellow Brothers and Sisters, who find yourselves “victims or survivors”, of these crimes against you to:
1. Report these situations to Dispatch, Supervisors, peers and managers immediately.
2. Remove yourselves from the situation i.e. the bus/vehicle.
3. Fill out the report as soon as you can, with as much detail as you can remember.
4. GO HOME; this is where you can fully recover from the crime that was committed against you.
Your health and wellbeing are most important to you, your family, friends and fellow members. We are out there by ourselves and we need to support each other in these situations. This also goes for fellow members that are not on the front lines, remember, be aware of your surroundings, keep communications open, report things out of the ordinary while you are out there doing your jobs.
Your Brother on the front lines