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Portland Commissioner Hardesty calls 911 over tense ride with Lyft driver

The driver canceled the ride, but Hardesty refused to leave his car and called 911.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty called 911 on Nov. 1 to complain about a Lyft ride. It happened as she was trying to get home to Portland from ilani Casino in Ridgefield, Washington.

It’s a curious turn of events for the commissioner who helped defund part of the Portland Police Bureau budget and has spent years as an activist criticizing police. According to The Oregonian, Hardesty has also worked as the commissioner in charge of Portland’s 911 system to find a way to divert the flood of non-emergency calls that come in to 911.

According to the Lyft driver, Richmond Frost, Hardesty ordered a ride sometime after 9:30 p.m. The ride started off on the wrong foot when the driver said Hardesty was at a different entrance than he expected. Once she got in the car, Frost said, Hardesty was angry. 

“Her whole tone with me was very demanding,” said Frost.

KGW contacted Hardesty’s office several times asking for comment but got no reply.

Frost said Hardesty was also angry he would not roll up the front windows all the way. He said he keeps the front window open about an inch for COVID-19 safety reasons, to allow the air to circulate. He keeps the back windows closed unless the passenger wants them opened. 

As they began the ride south to Portland, Frost said Hardesty continued to complain and he decided to cancel the ride. He took the next exit, pulled into the Chevron gas station, told Hardesty the ride was canceled and she did not owe him a fare but that she needed to get out of his vehicle.

The commissioner refused and instead called 911. The transcript is public record.

Dispatch: “911, what's your emergency?”

Hardesty:  “Well, I’ve got a Lyft driver who just decided he would drop me off at a filling station and he wants me to get out and 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. But I’m not leaving. He said I have to get out of the car or he’s calling the police. I decided to call for him.”

Dispatch: “OK. I mean technically it’s his property. You have a civil agreement. There’s no crimes involved.”

Hardesty: “Well he said he was calling the cops…”

Dispatch: "It’s not a crime to call the cops.”

Hardesty later told the Portland Tribune newspaper she feared for her safety as a Black woman by herself in the Ridgefield area.

The driver, Frost, said he’s had 18,000 passengers over the last four years driving for Lyft and that he has a five-star rating for excellent service. He said he has occasionally terminated rides before but never had anyone refuse to get out.

”No, I’ve never had that even remotely come to this,” Frost said.

On the 911 tape, Hardesty is firm that she is not moving.

Hardesty: “So I'm just going to sit here until he sends me another ride.”

Driver overhead on the phone: “I can’t send you a ride.”

Dispatch: “Only you can order another ride.”

Hardesty: “This is not a police issue, then I will hang up but I’m not getting out of this car in the dark.”

Dispatch: “Do you understand only you can order another ride?”

Hardesty: “Well I didn’t cancel the ride. He canceled the ride.”

Frost, the driver said eventually two Ridgefield police officers went to the gas station and a short time later a second Lyft driver arrived and gave Hardesty her ride home.

You can contact Pat Dooris at pdooris@kgw.com.