A local law firm sent a letter to area officials Tuesday morning telling the story of its client, Megan Little, who was hit by a car as she and her boyfriend crossed Northeast Broadway on March 1.
“As they crossed, Jason Davis made a high-speed left turn onto Broadway, striking Megan and dragging her 15 feet from the crosswalk down the street before coming to a stop,” the letter stated. “Little sustained a fractured right fibula in the collision and lacerations requiring several stitches.”
The June 20 letter further alleges that the incident saddled Little with medical bills and long-term injuries but that police declined to cite or arrest the driver.
It lays bare long-simmering tensions over police’s responsiveness—or lack thereof—in Portland, and also brings up the perennial issue of whether traffic citations, arrests and prosecutions should be a top priority of local law enforcement. The Portland Police Bureau has yet to comment.
The Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost law firm sent the letter to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell and Portland City Auditor Simone Rede. The lawyers detailed how Megan Little, who was injured by an unlicensed and uninsured driver with a history of irresponsible driving, contacted police repeatedly about the incident, largely to no avail.
After the incident in March, according to the letter, Little was told by the Police Bureau that it would not issue a citation or make an arrest, and that since it does not have a traffic division, she should take her concerns to the Portland City Council.
“Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence in Portland,” Christopher Thomas, one of the attorneys representing Little, tells WW. “Our clients are consistently surprised and upset by the lack of action taken by law enforcement in terms of issuing citations and holding drivers accountable for their conduct.”
It wasn’t until more than a month later and after filing multiple complaints with the Police Bureau, the letter claims, that the driver was cited for driving while suspended and uninsured. There have been no citations issued for the act of hitting a pedestrian, reckless driving or any other possible violation.
Since the driver had no insurance, Little has received no compensation to help with medical bills or missed work.
Davis received just a $715 fine for driving uninsured and with a suspended license, and was cited again for the same violation this week. Oregon court records show he has been cited for driving uninsured or without a valid license—or both—five times since 2010.
The city disbanded the traffic division in December 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and civil unrest in an effort to decrease racial disparities in traffic stops. (Black men are disproportionately pulled over for traffic stops compared to white people.) Those traffic officers were reassigned to other positions, partly to deal with a major staffing shortage.
A 2022 traffic accident report released by city transportation officials shows that traffic incidents and deaths made a huge jump beginning in 2021. In 2022 alone, there were 28 reported traffic-related pedestrian deaths, compared to just 16 in 2019 and 18 in 2020. While it’s likely a combination of factors that caused the jump, many look to the Police Bureau to help improve traffic safety around the city.
Last month, the bureau announced the rebirth of its traffic division in a limited capacity. At the time, the bureau cited rising crashes and low enforcement numbers as reasons to bring traffic enforcement back.
The Portland Police Bureau didn’t respond to a request for comment on the letter. The City Auditor’s Office referred Little to the city ombudsman with whom citizens can file a formal complaint. The DA’s office expressed concern at the situation but claims there is nothing it can do without initial steps being taken by the Police Bureau.
“Absent a referral, we won’t have a case to review for prosecution,” the DA’s office said in a statement to WW, responding to the letter. “We appreciate that Chief Lovell has reinstated the traffic division, and it is our hope that this will improve outcomes in similar situations. Should we receive a referral, we will review the charges and determine if we can prosecute.”