People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Area Transit Kicks Up Security Before and After Racist Stabbings
In the months leading up to the stabbings by white supremacist Jeremy Christian on a Portland MAX train, regional transit authority TriMet was already ramping up its efforts to bolster the presence of armed police, rather than fare inspectors or other security. Citing the poor facilities in the current downtown office for Transit Police, they instituted a plan to build an $11 million facility including holding cells and interrogation rooms as part of a new hotel at the Convention Center. The grassroots group OPAL and others were already mobilizing to oppose what they call the "TriMet Jail" when the May 26 stabbings, which killed two people and injured a third, brought a broader debate to the forefront about security on public transit. OPAL and Amalgamated Transit Union 757 felt that more armed police will not help (Willamette Week, June 7). TriMet had just budgeted to hire 15 unarmed fare inspectors, adding to 20 unarmed security guards (Willamette Week, June 14). After Christian threatened riders on a train and assaulted an African American woman the day before the stabbings, police let him go, though he's now being charged for that incident as well (Oregonlive, August 18).
As noted in our article on shootings (article), Christian was taken into custody by police without incident, despite holding a bloody knife and begging the officers to shoot him. Had he been a person of color, things would likely have ended up differently-- our point being not that Christian should have been shot, but that the Portland Police need to learn alternatives to deadly force. As noted in the Willamette Week's blog (May 27), police allowed Christian to drink from his bottle of alcohol before arresting him. It's also noteworthy that it was a Transit Police officer who shot and killed African American Terrell Johnson on May 10. The disproportionate enforcement of laws on TriMet against African Americans has also been in the news lately (PPR #71).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.