Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has spent the past few months calling for police to be defunded. One of the biggest things she’s been pushing for is for cops not to be called for things that don’t involve actual crimes.
That’s why it’s come as bad news for her that it’s come out that she called 911 on a Lyft driver simply for cancelling a ride.
Driver Richmond Frost told The Oregonian that Hardest was “rude and abusive” to him, and that he did not even know that she was on the Portland City Council until after their encounter.
“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.”
Hardesty had called for a Lyft to pick her up at a casino in Washington state on November 1, and things went off the rails right away when there was a mixup with her pickup location, which Frost said made her angry.
Things got worse when Hardesty got in the car and demanded that close the windows, saying that she would not ride with them down despite the fact that this would increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. Lyft’s website specifically recommends that windows remain open for all rides.
Frost put the windows up a little bit but left them open slightly, saying that he needed to do so for safety purposes. This did not sit well with Hardesty.
“I did say, ‘It’s for my safety and your safety.’ But that was like pouring gas on her fire,” Frost recalled. “She demanded that I close that window right now. She was kind of ballistic at that point.”
She was so enraged that Frost decided to take an early exit off Interstate 5.
“So I made a decision, it would be in the best interest for both of us to cancel the ride,” Frost said, adding that he pulled into a Chevron station. “It’s lit up like a football field. It’s safe. It’s warm. She could order another Lyft or Uber, whatever she wants to do, and I can be done, and I can get on with my work.”
This only made Hardesty more angry, and Frost said she told him, “‘Well, no, either you’re going to take me back to the casino or you’re going to take me to my destination.'”
She claimed that she had paid for the ride, even though Frost explained that he cancelled it already, which meant she would’t be charged. When Hardesty refused to get out of the vehicle, Frost asked if he’d have to call the police to get her out.
That’s when the woman who has been pushing to defund the police and have them not respond to calls that don’t involve actual crimes decided to call the cops herself.
“I’ve got a Lyft driver that decided he would just drop me off at a filling station,” Hardesty is quoted as saying in dispatch documents. “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.”
“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 added.
The dispatcher told Hardesty multiple times that this was not a crime and that the vehicle was the driver’s property, but she still wanted police to come help her, saying, “I am not going to allow him to leave me at the side of the road.”
Police eventually arrived at the same time as another Lyft vehicle that Hardesty had called to take her home. She simply got into this car and left, without talking to officers.
“Peace restored and involved parties sent their separate ways,” read the dispatcher entry at 10:16pm.
Hardesty sent the following complaint to Lyft:
“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 & 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 any angry person demands it. This is a safety issue for your customer. Your driver was in no danger.”
Lyft responded by informing Hardesty that “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 claimed to the Portland Tribune that she “proactively” called police because Frost calling the cops 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.”
Hardesty added that it’s dangerous “for a single woman to be traveling anywhere, especially in this very racially tense time. People recognize me everywhere … I just was not going to take that chance.”
Despite the fact that Hardesty seems to see herself as a celebrity, Frost said he never recognized her.
“She was just another passenger,” Frost said, adding that he has fears that publicity from this incident will put him in some kind of danger. “I treat everybody the same. I try to be professional.”