A Portland politician pushing to defund the police, claiming that most calls are not real crimes, recently called 911 herself — over an argument with a Lyft driver who refused to close his window.
City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty — who also oversees Portland’s emergency dispatch system — has repeatedly campaigned to cut police budgets and shift money elsewhere, arguing that the force is inundated with unnecessary calls that don’t involve crimes, according to The Oregonian.
She again called for an $18 million cut last Thursday — four days after she dialed 911 over a ride-share driver who was following Lyft’s coronavirus safety guidelines to keep a window open, the paper said.
Her 911 calls, first obtained by The Oregonian, show her repeatedly demanding the force send out officers — even though the dispatcher insisted no crime had been committed.
“I paid for a ride. He says he canceled it,” Hardesty told the dispatcher, who told her it was the driver’s right to do so. “So I’m going to sit here until he sends me another ride,” she said, with the dispatcher patiently telling her that only she could order one.
When two officers finally arrived in a squad car, the City Commissioner got out of the Lyft — and into another ride-share car that pulled up at the same time as the officers, the paper said.
Hardesty later told the Portland Tribune that she “proactively” called police because as a black woman she feared having officers called on her “would put me in danger.”
“I don’t call 911 lightly, but I certainly am not going to do anything that would put my personal safety at risk,” she said. “It’s a lot harder when you are black or brown in America to make that decision.”
“I am very aware of how unsafe it is for a single woman to be traveling anywhere, especially in this very racially tense time,” she told the paper. “People recognize me everywhere … I just was not going to take that chance.”
However, driver Richmond Frost, 63, told The Oregonian that Hardesty “wasn’t happy” as soon as he picked her up at a casino Sunday night — and flipped when he refused to fully close his window, despite him telling her, “It’s for my safety and your safety.”
“But that was like pouring gas on her fire,” Frost told the paper. “She demanded that I close that window right now. She was kind of ballistic at that point.”
He decided to cancel the ride — charging no money — and pulled into a gas station that he claimed was safely “lit up like a football field.”
When she refused to get out of his four-door Hyundai Ioniq, Frost said he would call the police — with the politician beating him to it.
“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,” she told the dispatcher, the calls show.
“He says I’ve got to get out of his car, or he would call the police, so I decided to call for him,” she continued.
Frost — a Lyft driver for four years who has handled more than 18,000 rides — didn’t realize his unruly passenger was a politician, he said.
“That has nothing to do with her political position as a Portland council person,” he told The Oregonian.
“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.”
After Hardesty complained to Lyft, the company reminded her that “drivers are free to end a ride for any reason” — and warned that “future reports of this nature may lead to additional action being taken on your account.”