UPDATE (Thursday, 7:29 a.m. PT) The mass transit agency that serves the Portland metro area said it will continue fare enforcement activities following a court decision last week ruling that a woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was stopped by a TriMet employee during a fare evasion inspection.
While TriMet wasn’t a party in the case, the ACLU of Oregon, which provided pro bono representation to the defendant, says the ruling by Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge John A. Wittmayer more broadly implicates the agency’s entire fare enforcement policy.
The transit agency said it has since modified it’s fare enforcement policy to satisfy the judge’s concerns over searches “without individualized suspicion.”
While TriMet would not elaborate on the specifics of those adjustments, Democratic state lawmakers joined the chorus of opposition to the agency’s fare enforcement policies in a letter to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, requesting she let the court ruling stand.
“We believe this ruling represents the kind of accountability our law enforcement needs to fairly administer the law within our communities, and that the precedent set through this decision should be allowed to stand,” the 13 Democratic lawmakers wrote.
Rosenblum said in a statement that her office is reviewing the ruling and will discuss it with the district attorney’s office to determine whether there is “legitimate basis for appeal.”
The circuit court judge’s ruling came in the case of Ana Del Rocio, a David Douglas School Board member who the court ruled was stopped and seized without cause during a fare evasion inspection by a TriMet employee and Portland Police officer in March.
TriMet, meanwhile, said riders should continue to be prepared to show valid fare when requested by a TriMet employee, a practice the ACLU of Oregon has argued disproportionately targets low income riders and people of color.
“We have made some adjustments to our fare enforcement activities that we believe address concerns the judge raised about the interaction, but again fare inspections will continue to enforce fares in a manner we believe is lawful and equitable,” said Roberta Altstadt, a spokeswoman with TriMet.
Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Chris Burley told KGW that PPB officers will no longer conduct fare inspection missions on the TriMet system, a change welcomed by the ACLU. Still, Mat dos Santos, legal director with the ACLU of Oregon, said the change doesn’t go far enough.
“Removing police from the scene does not remove the threat of criminal prosecution,” dos Santos said in an email to OPB. “And even if TriMet fully decriminalizes the transit system, TriMet agents can’t legally go around stopping people at random. Our constitution prohibits this kind of intrusion into our daily lives.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that TriMet was not a party in the case.