Opinion | Why Uber Won’t Call the Police

Opinion | Why Uber Won’t Call the Police

As a result, Uber may be aware of thousands of potentially dangerous drivers and riders in our communities but it does not do all it can to ensure they are brought to justice. Only a third of rape allegations on Uber rides from 2017 to 2018 involved law enforcement, Uber’s data show.

In her August deposition, Ms. Lambert, who now works in a different department for Uber, said that over the course of 19 months as an investigator she fielded around 1,500 complaints, roughly 600 of which were allegations of sexual assault. It’s not clear how many of those were verified. Uber in 2019 disclosed nearly 6,000 cases of sexual assault between 2017 and 2018 in the United States. A spokesman said some allegations are frivolous or attempts to get a refund and so they don’t appear in its safety report. Lyft, which has similar safety procedures but also hosts fewer rides, reported roughly 1,800 sexual assaults in 2019.

In one instance discussed in the depositions, Ms. Lambert, when she was working as a safety investigator, petitioned her managers to allow her to report to the police the details of an assault on a driver by armed passengers. “I wanted to reach out on behalf of this driver after hearing their statement of what happened,” said Ms. Lambert. “It was emotional for me to hear at the time just given the facts and all of the phone calls that I had with all of the parties involved.”

She was told by supervisors that was not allowed. And of roughly 20 rape allegations Ms. Lambert investigated, she said she didn’t route a single one to the police.

Mr. Stormer seemed to agree that Uber could be clearer with potential victims about the company’s role in reporting a crime. A lawyer asked him, “What harm can you imagine happening if the investigator had been trained to say simply, ‘Ma’am, just so you know, Uber is not going to report this to the police’?” To which Mr. Stormer replied, “No harm,”

Would it be appropriate to tell a victim plainly that Uber is not going to report an incident to police, he was then asked. “That would be a good idea,” he said. In cases in which a rider reached out to report a sexual assault, Uber states in follow-up emails, “We believe the decision to report to law enforcement is entirely up to you,” according to a template sent by a spokesman.

Victims’ advocates told me there’s a better way. “If Uber cares about public safety, as it claims, there is a public interest in getting sexual assailants off the streets,” said Jane Manning, director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project and a former sex crimes prosecutor. She said Uber ought to make it clear to alleged victims upfront that it will not go to bat for them on its own. As Mr. Stormer said, Uber can change its scripts by offering to approach the police on victims’ behalf, directing them to victims’ advocates or help-lines or suggesting they seek legal counsel.

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