This is Not “Safety”

BRU Leadership Speaks Out on Transit Police Shooting

Last week an officer assigned to TriMet’s Transit Police division shot and killed Terrell Johnson, a 24 year old Portland man, at SE 92nd and Flavel. Johnson was running from police when a Portland Police Officer, acting as part of the transit division, shot and killed him on the MAX tracks.

We’ve delayed speaking out about this shooting with the hope that TriMet or the City of Portland would help the community make sense of Terrell’s death. Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement after the shooting, “information should be provided to the public in a timely and transparent manner,” yet we have heard nothing of substance from TriMet or the City. As Portland’s transit riders union, we absolutely cannot wait any longer. Terrell Johnson was killed without a trial by a police officer who was assigned to the Transit Division. This is not normal.

Transit police should not be armed with deadly weapons. Houseless people and people of color should not be executed without trial. Police should not shoot someone for running away. De-escalation tactics and non-deadly alternatives exist, and should be the first strategy for engagement.

Bus Riders demand justice in Transit Policing. We demand safety on public transit – but we define “safety” much differently than TriMet does. We’re going to TriMet’s Board Meeting on the 24th to demand:

  • Disarm transit police officers! Armed transit police do not make riders feel safer. Rather, armed police officers can and do escalate and worsen problems. This is not community-defined safety.
  • Stop the sweeps! TriMet intends to invest more than $1M in additional fare enforcement on buses and trains. Recent fare sweeps on the system, by highly-militarized police units, scare away riders from communities who are already threatened under the Trump administration. This is not community-defined safety.
  • Place a moratorium on fare enforcement and find a better way! Portland claims to be a sanctuary city, but recently fare inspectors have been asking people their citizenship status. This is not community-defined safety. Let the community inform a sensible, safe alternative to fare enforcement.
  • Redirect transit police facility funds to system improvements! TriMet plans to build a new transit police facility near the Rose Quarter. Ridership is going down on TriMet, at least in part because the system targets low-income people, people of color, and other vulnerable groups. This is not community-defined safety. Riders demand improved buses and bus stops, more accessible and frequent service, and alternatives to transit policing.

We hope that you will join us.

In Solidarity,

Bus Riders Unite Steering Committee

Posted in Against Militarization, Against White Supremacy, Bus Riders Unite, Transit Justice.