A black man riding in the back of the bus is harrassed by a white bus driver. Montgomery, Ala., circa 1955? Try Portland, Ore.—this past Monday....
TriMet is investigating a complaint that driver Deborah L. Shill, 43, may have acted inappropritately in her conduct toward a rider on the 44 Route to PCC Sylvania (Bus #2103) around noon on Feb. 12.
According to Eli Dapalonia, another rider, when Shills reached a stop by the Justice Center on Southwest 3rd Avenue, she left the driver's seat and walked to the back of the bus, yelling, "You! Hey You! Hey You! We're downtown! You need to wake up and pick up your damn trash!" to a college-aged African-American male seated in the rear. Five minutes later, when the same rider exited the bus at a Portland State University stop, Dapalonia says Shills yelled a string of insults, including "Get the hell out of here...you little punk."
"It was just shocking and weird. I've ridden buses and trains in the city for years and never seen anything like this," Dapalonia says.
In an email to WW
, Dapalonia writes, "For a public servant to behave with such fervent dehumanizing animosity toward a passenger who appeared to just be minding his own business—it just blew me away."
TriMet has already contacted Dapalonia to acknowledge receipt of his complaint, and the agency has assigned manager Dick Garvin to further examine what took place.
"We take complaints like this seriously and are looking into what happened, " says Bruce Solberg, TriMet public information officer. "What we have right now is an accusation. We're just starting the whole process, and we want to talk to all of the involved parties and thoroughly review the situation."