FACT CHECK: ATU Leadership’s claim: “Perception Not Protection”

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The leadership of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) is again putting out false statements about TriMet management and questioning our concern for our employees. We support our operators who have a tough job to do under stressful circumstances. If there are safety or security incidents, our Transit Police officers, along with supervisors and other personnel, place a high priority on responding and even prosecuting for crimes against our operators.

In a news release sent out by the union’s leadership this week, claims were made concerning a non-TriMet police incident on June 20, 2013 at SE 82nd and Powell, witnessed by two TriMet bus operators as well as other community members.

ATU release claim: “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… 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.”

Fact: While we understand that during a stressful time those involved may remember events and details differently, the police reports that include statements from the two TriMet operators as well as other witnesses do not match what ATU leadership is claiming.

According to the statements and the police account, the TriMet operators were not the target in this incident. They, along with other witnesses, happened to be in the area when a dispute occurred between two other people.

Here are the facts according to the Portland Police Bureau reports:

  • A man who said he had a legal concealed weapons permit pulled out his gun to discourage another man who was allegedly harassing him.
  • The alleged instigator, according to his own statement, then pursued the man with the gun. He and at least one witness stated the man with the gun was walking backwards pointing the gun at the instigator.
  • One TriMet operator told police that the man with the gun was running toward the group of people holding a gun pointing in their direction, and that it appeared the man was sweeping the whole group with the gun as he tried to run past them.
  • The second TriMet operator told police that the man with the gun walked in his direction and pointed the gun toward him and said to get out of his way.

No statement was made to police – or to TriMet personnel   – that “the gun he held was four inches from one operator’s face.” No statement was made about an operator attempting to “calm the man down.” And, no statement was made that the man ever verbally threatened to harm the operator or anyone else.

View police report one

View police report two
 

ATU release claim: “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.”

Fact:  The operators’ manager was in contact with TriMet’s Command Center dispatchers and those relaying information from the scene immediately after TriMet was alerted about the incident.  He waited at the garage for the operators, who were escorted back to the garage by a field supervisor.  The supervisor had offered to drive them both back to the garage, but one had a personal vehicle and choose to drive back to the garage, the other accepted the supervisor’s offer of transportation back.

The manager met with the operators, gave them information on how to access TriMet’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) assistance for further support, offered them the remainder of the day off and told them that workers’ compensation was an option if they felt they could not drive the next day and beyond.  The manager made sure both operators had a safe way to get home. Both employees came into the office the next day and filed workers compensation claims and managers spoke with them again at that time. Both employees are still off on workers’ compensation, and TriMet management has initiated care calls with them and confirmed that they have had initial EAP and medical contacts.

To portray that TriMet management was not attentive is inaccurate.

 

ATU release claim: “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.”

Fact:The discussion with TriMet Executive Director of Safety and Security Harry Saporta was not as described. The conversation about harassment concerned incidents in which operators are spat upon. Those incidents are categorized by the Portland Police Bureau, in accordance with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook, as harassment crimes UNLESS the spit is into the victim’s eyes, nose or mouth. With the concern of contracting illness through the contamination of bodily fluids, the crime is then categorized by the police as an assault. Harassment is not a new category. Harassment crimes have been tracked by TriMet’s security department for at least the last five years.

 

ATU release claim: “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.”

Fact:  Police typically do not recommend offering a reward immediately following an incident when there are leads to track down, because it can create unnecessary work into unsubstantiated claims, which then slows down the investigation. That was the case in the stabbing of the operator. At the appropriate time, with the initial leads running out and at the direction of the lead officer in the case – not based on ATU leaderships’ remarks – TriMet initiated a $1,000 reward to prompt the public to assist in the apprehension of the suspect. TriMet announced that reward on May 27, asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the suspect, and explained the police protocol. This is still an active case under investigation by the Transit Police Division.

 

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