Sunday, October 2, 2016

Take Your Punches! (Reasonably.)


Unconfirmed reports hint at a possible suspension for an operator who was assaulted. Why? Because he defended himself.

If this is true, and I'm pretty sure my information is reliable, then it further proves that "Safety is Our Core Value" is pure bunk. Perhaps it's a value of management for management, but to us it's just a feel-good phrase that is anything but satisfying.

While we're told that if attacked we may use "reasonable self defense," this is a vague statement that makes us even more vulnerable to not only the public but to our management as well. For who is allowed to determine what is reasonable? It would be up to the operator under attack, in a logical world. But obviously, there's some definite illogical reasoning going on here.

We're also instructed to "remain in the seat." If we are attacked, our only way to get the word out is to hit our magic panic button, which immediately puts us in contact with Dispatch. In an emergency such as witnessing an injury, remaining seated allows us to radio vital information to be communicated with 911. It is in our nature, as public servants, to naturally reach out to help in any way possible. But it makes sense that the best way to do this is to provide as much information as quickly as we can so the proper assistance is sent to the scene.

When the injuries are being inflicted upon US, management seems to think it makes sense for us to reasonably defend ourselves from there. Leaving the seat is thought to be an aggressive move which can make matters worse. However, while in the seat we're extremely vulnerable and virtually unable to deploy any self defense tactics. We're facing forward, leaving our right side totally exposed. Our legs are in driving position, with the steering column preventing a possibly live-saving pivot. The time needed to turn and face our attacker is enough for them to stick a knife in us or land several punches in the most vital parts of our body. So unless we turn to our right or leave the seat, we're sitting ducks.

Being in a face-forward position also adds "reaction time" to the mix. At least we have our foot covering the brake at intersections, which can save lives if a motorist enters the vehicle's safety zone. In the seat, we cannot defend from a blind side thrust of a deadly weapon. When we're attacked, there is no reaction time, because our focus is on the road and everything around the bus. This multiplies our vulnerability 10 times over. Our own lives, in the event of an attack, are more at risk than the motoring public's. It's our instinct to stop and lock when confronted with any possible danger, around or inside the bus.

Once again, the term reasonable sticks out. Is it reasonable to expect us to calmly de-escalate a situation when our safety is threatened? Perhaps a trained hostage negotiator is able to do this. Someone with a gun to their head is thinking only of their loved ones.

A well-placed punch can be deadly. If we're being physically assaulted, isn't it reasonable to defend ourselves by any means possible? Beating the living crap out of our assailant is therefore reasonable self defense, because the alternative could be our own death. If management decides to punish an assault victim for fighting back, isn't it reasonable to assume that "Safety is Our Core Value" is simply a vague phrase meant only to protect itself? It is surely reasonable to believe that catchy, corporate-speak fantasy phrase defies all logic and reason when you're a transit operator. It may look good in print, but transit work is reality.

Lately our buses have a new message on the destination signs when we're deadheading, informing the public that the transit agency is hiring. On the back it reads "Join Our Family." I'm sorry, but if someone attacks MY family, they're due for an old-fashioned ass whupping. I'm not going to step in between the assailant and my loved one, stop the assault, then kick my own relation bloody and disown them. If I did that, it would be one helluva dysfunctional family. Many operators refuse to advertise the agency's doublespeak. It also confuses a public accustomed to seeing "Garage" on deadheading buses to make our vehicles rolling advertisements for their desperate plea to hire new operators. I've had many people berate me for not picking them up when I'm returning to base after a long shift. Just to see this phony message is enough to make me want to scream "I'M NOT YOUR FAMILY!" My family loves me, and would do anything to keep me safe.

Once again, I'm echoing Henry Beasley's call for a stop to insulting our operators who have been assaulted for daring to inflict any damage to our agency's protected and pampered violent passengers. We need to lobby the legislature to mandate jail time and PERMANENT EXCLUSION to anyone convicted of assaulting ANY transit employee. They should publicly shamed and aggressively prosecuted. The operators should be cared for, given paid time to recuperate both physically and spiritually while also provided with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy. It's what an agency which is truly concerned about "Safety" would do.

It also wouldn't be a bad idea for upper management to take bus operator training and perform several weeks a year of in-service bus operation. Gee, I wonder if they'd feel different if their own well-being was threatened on the job as ours is every day?

10 comments:

  1. What we did that drastically cut operator assaults was go to All Door Boarding and Proof of Payment on fares. Partly this was to speed boarding, but a significant part was the expected drop in assaults and resulting lost time.

    You will never get rid of the totally random assaults, but this reduces even the assaults where the assailant boards ready to provoke a situation.

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    1. True that, pup. But what we CAN do is try to convince legislatures to enact measures which remove these creeps from society.

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  2. It really irks me every time we have this debate with management and supervisors. "What did the operator do to escalate the situation?"

    GRRRRrrrrrr.....

    We workers need to become much, much more argumentative against systemic causes to increasing incidents of violence against us. For example, it's not the operators fault the news media quotes our managers calling us, "Rich, $100k/yr, platinum Cadillac pension benefits-for-life bus drivers." Operators haven't spent the last 20 years brainwashing the public into feeling entitled to the same "Customer Service" as they expect from a waitress or a bell hop. It was the management who took away our 8-corner uniform caps and silver-shield badges. It was the management who took away the "Tri-Met's Most Wanted" posters from the bullpens. And, it is the management that values it "family" with merely one grand for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a perp.

    NO! Every time they point their shaming finger at an operator for inviting his own assault, there are at least three fingers pointing back at the true culprit of the crime.

    S.O.S.

    It is time for us all to expect more safety and operator security for our public transit dollars. After all, if a transit operator is not secure in their seat the public is not safe around public transit. It is not the bus driver neglecting to be transparent and accountable. Hell, we don't even rate a flimsy sneeze guard to protect us from the virulent abuses of the untouchable!

    PUBLIC SAFETY IS OPERATOR SECURITY (S.O.S.)

    It is district managers who must be called to account for neglecting their obligation to provide a safe working environment for our transit workers. It is Directing Board members who hide behind white vales of legitimacy by their gubernatorial appointments. Where is the citizen oversight not blinded by district PR propagandists? Is our transit district government-by-consent, or is it a billion-dollar rogue bureaucracy complete with its own taxing authority and police force?

    Honestly, I love my job. If I didn't I wouldn't have stayed seated for it for over 25 years. I have agreed to the bargain. I have kept my shoulder to the wheel and my nose to the horn button, faithfully trading my blood, sweat, and tears in turn for a respectable wage, decent medical benefits, and the security of a modest pension in my old age. Yet, it is my employer who has defined my contribution, sabotaged my work station, and refused to compensate me fairly. I will have devoted over half of my lifetime to the secure conveyance of my passengers, to value-added public service excellence, and to the safety of all the communities I where I drive. Yet, the bosses of the company are not my family and do not deserve my help to recruit more blood for the front line. I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemies.

    OUR FAMILY

    You are my family. You are my friend, my neighbor, my union brother and sister. I work for you. I work for the 99 percent who do respect my trade and willingly stand behind me in the face of danger and abuse. We choose to make public transit a vital part of our civilized society. We value the safety of our communities and treasure the security of our families. TriMet's bureaucrats make a mockery of all that we hold dear, by paying nothing but lip service to our standards for public safety.

    TriMet's workers are shepherds of public safety sacrificing daily for the common good.

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    1. Well Mr. Lion, I KNEW I'd seen this somewhere before! When I read your preamble to the FaceBook post, it struck a chord. Your comment is an eloquent statement as to the state of our transit today. Thanks, as always, for your wisdom and support.

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  3. I am afraid that they will continue to push current policy until someone actually dies and they get sued. Makes me sad.

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    1. Yup, someone will have to be murdered in the "seat" before management wakes up......

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  4. I averaged two physical assaults per year and countless verbal assaults over the five years that I drove. Always, what could you have done to avoid it? There's no recourse for the ops. I had to quit.

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  5. Who is the fucking idiot who came out and said to stay in your seat , I defy any management personnel on this issue . I will be dammed if I sit there and get beat up without defending myself and I call any management or management want to be a to sit in that seat while I start beating the shit out of them and see if they stay put without a fight . I call them hypocrites and the worst scum of the earth. If you think I going to stay put , you are fucking crazy . Just by sitting there , you may received a punch to the heads that kills you or maims you for life and there isn't any one of those management types, that are going to be at your door for the rest of your life throwing money at you for medical expenses . They are so two faced that I want to go to their office and start belting on them and see if they sit in their chairs and take more. I lose my career because I was rendered unconscious and then they dragged me out of the seat and put the boots too me breaking my back, ribs nose jaw and my kidneys , major concussion and so many others that is too long to list, and they did not think I would survive, and now I have a world of pain and suffering and medical bills I cant keep up with and you tell me I have to sit in that seat and take a beating . Fuck you . If I wouldn't have been rendered unconscious , I would have defended myself , and yes I may receive some bruises and welts but that is better than better than living with a broken back and jaw, Yes, the ribs have healed and the jaw somewhat but the back is my cross I bear, It makes me so mad when they tell you , if you defend yourself, we will fire you. What a bunch of ignorants cowards.

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    1. Thanks Rene for your comment. I can see you're not one of the "lucky" ones, since you were obviously assaulted. I'm really very sorry that happened to you. I have to agree that this policy of staying in the seat while being assaulted is ridiculous. The answer to your question about the idiot is, sadly, not attributable to any one person. It is our transit agency's policy to stay in the seat. It is also vague when it says we may use "reasonable self defense" when attacked. But my point is, who is able to recall any legal precedent or define what is "reasonable" when your life is in danger? I believe it is a purposely-vague phrase added to ensure they protect themselves from a lawsuit in case an operator does bodily harm to a passenger. Which, of course, the passenger deserves if he/she assaults an operator in the line of duty. It's insulting to bus operators everywhere, because we're rarely defended for our actions of self defense when the passenger comes out worse-for-wear than the operator. Anyway, thanks for the comment and once again, I'm sorry this happened to you my brother, as I'm sure everyone else who reads this blog agrees.

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  6. NO WHERE...NO WHERE IN *ANY* SOP is it written down where you are not allowed to get out of your seat. They always state this verbally, but never out it in writing. This is done because if you get out of your seat and it works in your favor...good on you! If it doesnt, we told you not to!!

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