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Portland Commissioner who said most 911 calls are unnecessary phones police on Lyft driver

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Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was engaged in an argument with a Lyft driver on November 1 that eventually led to both the driver and Hardesty calling 911. Hardesty has been advocating for a budget amendment that would “reallocate $18 million from the Portland Police Bureau to reinvest in community, COVID-19 relief, and police alternatives.” Hardesty has previously argued that most 911 calls are unnecessary. She called 911 after her Lyft driver canceled the ride and asked her to get out of the car.

Lyft driver Richmond Frost told two Portland Police Department officers responding to the scene that Hardesty “became irate when he refused to roll the windows up,” according to a dispatch report. Hardesty says the driver was rude and uncooperative.

The argument reportedly began over the windows being rolled down a bit which is Lyft policy during the COVID-19 emergency after Hardesty was picked up at Washington’s ilani Casino Resort. Hardesty wanted her window rolled up and the driver would not comply. A heated confrontation ensued.

Frost then pulled into a Chevron gas station, canceled the ride, and apparently asked her to leave the vehicle. Hardesty allegedly said she refused to exit the vehicle because “it was cold and she was a woman and alone.”

At that point, Hardesty called 911, stating: “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.”

(Screenshot of window policy from Lyft.com)

“I am not going to allow him to leave me on the side of the road. I paid for a ride and he says he canceled it, so I’m just going to sit here until he sends me another ride.”

The dispatcher patiently explained to Hardesty that the car was Frost’s property, no crimes were committed, and only she can order another Lyft. Upon further instance from Hardesty, officers were dispatched to the scene to resolve the issue.

Lyft currently recommends that drivers keep windows down while a passenger is in the car to ensure air circulation and mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Frost also called 911.

“I’ve got a customer that I canceled the ride. I’m a rideshare driver and I canceled the ride, and I’ve taken her off the freeway to this filling station so that she can order another ride,” Frost told the 911 operator.

“I canceled the ride so she’s no longer involved or engaged with me. She’s refusing to get out of my car.”

Richmond Frost of Beaverton, a Lyft driver for four years who has handled more than 18,000 rides, said he didn’t realize his fare was Hardesty until it was all over. He said he’s now concerned about the publicity and how it could affect his Lyft license.

“She was not a pleasant person,” Frost said. “That has nothing to do with her political position as a Portland council person. 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.”

In an interview, Frost said he does not have a dashcam but is thinking of getting one now.

“It was a bad ride for both of us,” he said. “I hope there is a good resolution for both of us.”

Hardesty, who oversees the Bureau of Emergency Management which includes the city’s 911 system, did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the media.

“I don’t call 911 lightly, but I certainly am not going to do anything that would put my personal safety at risk,” Hardesty told the newspaper.

“It’s a lot harder when you are Black or brown in America to make that decision … But I ultimately had very limited options.”

Hardesty sent a written complaint to Lyft over the incident. She said the driver was angry and that he blamed her for the misunderstanding over the pickup location. She wrote that it was “totally inappropriate to expect a woman to get out of a vehicle in the dead of night.”

Hardesty has been actively pushing for a budget amendment to defund the police in Portland.

After the Portland City Council failed to pass the budget amendment last week, Hardesty called on elected leaders to “move past the fear and stretch ourselves to take the action that is demanded.”

“In June we started this journey by reallocating $15 million from the Police Bureau and redirecting those funds towards community investments,” she said in a statement on Nov. 5th.

“We came into this budget with the same goal of investing in our communities and reducing police by providing mutual aid because if Portlanders can’t depend on Portland to keep them safe and supported, who can they count on?”

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