Ask BikePortland: What should I do if a driver harassed me and police don’t take it seriously?

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The latest installment of our Ask BikePortland column comes from a woman named Sabrina S. I’ve changed her name at her request.

Here’s what she asked via email earlier this week:

“Hi – I was hoping someone at BikePortland could give advice on getting help from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) when confronted by dangerous drivers.

I was riding on Southeast Division Street with a friend. We were looking for a restaurant (which we couldn’t find) before heading over to the Clinton greenway. As we were on Division, a car came up behind us then went around us (plenty of room, not a problem). But then the driver started screamed profanities at us to get off the road. We continued on (legally riding on the street, well to the side) when the driver stopped, screamed, “You wanna fight, punk?” and then more profanities as we ignored him to continue on to our destination.

I would like to point out two things: 1) We are both women, in our 50’s. Flattered he thought I was a young punk, but definitely not one. 2) He was a Lyft driver, had the insignia on display in his windshield.

Then he started to circle us, driving around the blocks and continuing to threaten us/scream profanities/say he was going to fight us. By this time we had dropped over to Clinton and were parked on the sidewalk, trying to locate our destination. He then came by again, this time screamed at us to get off the sidewalk. Not sure where he thought we were supposed to exist, if not on the road or the sidewalk? At this point we called 911. The dispatcher didn’t accuse us of anything illegal, but seemed unconcerned and didn’t want to send out an officer even though we had a description of the vehicle and license plate # (which was an Oregon Military Vet license plate). He even questioned the plate number until I told him repeatedly it was a special Vet’s plate with only four letters (rather than the usual alphanumeric ones). He finally recommended I contact Lyft. So, once we got to our destination I finally did – Lyft was much more proactive and interested in investigating the incident. Lyft was great, PPB was not. Any advice, please?”

I responded to Sabrina and shared three possible options:

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1) File a complaint with the Independent Police Review. The IPR is a branch of the City of Portland Auditor’s office and acts as an independent, “civilian oversight agency” that investigates allegations of misconduct by PPB officers. It’s not clear to me if the dispatcher Sabrina spoke with on the phone is a sworn officer or not, so IPR might not be the proper venue.

2) Pursue a retroactive citation. As we’ve covered at length in the past, there’s an existing Oregon law that allows you to work with police to file non-criminal charges against another person (I used to refer to this as “citizen-initiated citation” but I’m trying to not use the word “citizen” anymore). We’ve seen this law used successfully on several occasions in the past. Because Sabrina has the person’s license plate number, she has enough evidence to start the process.

3) Testify in front of Portland City Council. Council has an open public comment period prior to each weekly meeting where you can speak about whatever issue is on your mind. Show up 30 minutes ahead of the meeting to get your name on the list. This would put Sabrina’s experience in the official record and it might solicit a question or prompt some help from Mayor Wheeler (police commissioner) or other city councilor.

Sabrina said she’s too afraid of retaliation to speak at council publicly; but will look into the IPR and other options.

Do you have any advice for Sabrina?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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