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Portland City Commissioner Who Wants to Defund Police Called 911 Over Lyft Dispute

Portland’s City Commissioner, Jo Ann Hardesty, called 911 this month after her Lyft driver canceled her ride when driver and passenger entered a dispute.

On November 1st, Hardesty ordered a Lyft ride from the ilani Casino Resort in Richland, Washington. The ride immediately started on the wrong foot when there was confusion between Hardesty and driver about the pickup location.

“It kind of went south from there,” driver Richmond Frost recalled. Frost has been driving for Lyft for four years, and has handled more than 18,000 rides.

Frost was unable to calm her frustration about the pickup location mixup. As they began their drive, Hardesty requested that Frost roll up his windows.

Lyft’s COVID policy includes recommendations to keep car windows open when carrying passengers. In compliance with that recommendation, Frost had his front driver’s side and front passenger’s side windows cracked.

At Hardesty’s request, he rolled them up slightly, but kept them cracked. He explained that it was for the safety of them both.

At that point, Frost says Hardesty went “ballistic”:

“…that was like pouring gas on her fire. She demanded that I close that window right now. She was kind of ballistic at that point.”

Hardesty continued to demand that the windows be rolled up, so Frost exited I-5, pulled into a Chevron gas station, and requested that she exit the car and order another ride. He explained to The Oregonian that canceling the ride was “in the best interest for both of us.”

According to Frost, the Chevron was “lit up like a football field,” and he pulled up next to its front door.

But Hardesty refused to leave and demanded that Frost take her back to the casino, proceed to her destination, or order her a new Lyft.

Frost explained only she could order a new Lyft, and insisted that the ride was canceled.

Frost called the police at 9:48 PM. The Chevron gas station would close at 10 PM, but gas station clerks confirm that the bright lights remain on throughout the night since the gas pumps are operational around the clock.

Hardesty told the 911 dispatcher, “Well, I’ve got a Lyft driver that decided he would just drop me off at a filling station. Well, I’m not getting out of the car, in the dark, at a filling station, not happening – all because I asked him to put the window up. I’m not leaving.”

The dispatcher explained that he could send an officer, but that there wouldn’t be much the officer could do since nothing she was describing was illegal. Since the car was the driver’s property, he had the right to request her to leave.

Hardesty insisted she would not leave. “I paid for the ride. He says he canceled it. So I’m going to sit here until he sends me another ride.”

Frost ended up calling 911 himself. Two officers responded and took statements from both parties. Hardesty ended up ordering another Lyft ride, which arrived at the same time as the police officers at 9:57 PM. She rode home in the new Lyft.

You can listen to the 911 calls here.

Hardesty led the Portland efforts over the summer to slash the police budget by $15 million, and she has stated in the past that many 911 calls are unnecessary.

“She was not a pleasant person,” said Frost. “That has nothing to do with her political position as a Portland council person.” (Frost says that he didn’t realize she was a Portland public official until later that night). “I’m out here doing my job. She was very disrespectful to me, made me uncomfortable. I don’t feel like I have to sit in a car for anyone to have to argue unrelentingly and be rude and abusive, telling me what I have to do in my own vehicle.”

Hardesty filed a formal complaint to Lyft that night:

“I requested a ride, the driver came to the wrong pick up location. He then blamed me. I asked him to roll the window up on my side and he started to yell, ‘I can’t because the regulations require each window to be cracked (which isn’t true). He then pulls over in the dark on the side of a gas station and told me he was cancelling the ride. I had no interest in being left on the side of the road by an angry driver. He threaten (sic) to call the police. I called the police and another car. Both arrived at the same time. It is totally inappropriate to expect a woman to get out of a vehicle in the dead of night because an angry person demands it. This is a safety issue for your customer. Your driver was in no danger.”

The Lyft Safety Team responded:

“As a reminder, drivers are free to end a ride for any reason as long as the drop off is in a safe location. Safety is our top priority. We take these matters very seriously. We encourage everyone using Lyft to be respectful of others. This helps maintain a safe and inclusive community.”

Hardesty told the Portland Tribune that as a black woman in Ridgefield, Washington next to a highway late at night, she didn’t have a choice but to call 911.

Over 70 police officers have left the PPD this year. Much like the flood of officers leaving Seattle, many Portland officers cite lack of support from city leaders in their exit interviews.

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