Portland lawyer Chris Thomas* is so fed up with the state of traffic enforcement in Portland that he fired off a letter to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Police Chief Chuck Lovell, and City Auditor Simone Rede urging them to take the prosecution of dangerous drivers more seriously.
The letter, which I share in its entirety below, comes after one of Thomas’ clients, Megan Little, was hit by a car driver on March 1st and dragged along the street as she walked in a crosswalk on a walk signal across NE Broadway at 21st. Little suffered a concussion and serious foot injuries that still plague her with pain and symptoms nearly four months later. Yet Thomas says, despite the driver making an illegal turn, being unlicensed and uninsured, and having a long history of traffic violations, the Portland Police Officer who handled the case declined to issue a citation or arrest and appeared to politicize the incident by telling the victim to take up their concerns with Portland City Council.
In a conversation with BikePortland this morning, Thomas said he understands police must prioritize, and that they often treat traffic collisions as a civil matter for insurance companies to handle. “But sometimes people don’t have insurance,” Thomas said. “And sometimes drivers need something on their public record saying they got into a crash so that we can, as a society, keep track of these people, hold them accountable, and keep them from doing the same thing over and over again.”
Here’s the letter:
Dear District Attorney Schmidt, Police Chief Lovell, and Auditor Rede,
I am a personal injury lawyer in Portland. My practice involves representing victims of negligence, including on our City’s roadways. Many of my clients are pedestrians and bicyclists, who are particularly vulnerable to serious injury by negligent drivers. I am writing to inform you of the recent experience of Megan Little. On Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at about 10:30 pm, Megan and her boyfriend walked across NE Broadway at 21st Avenue in a crosswalk with the walk signal. As they crossed, Jason Davis made a high speed, left turn onto Broadway, striking Megan and dragging her 15 feet from the crosswalk down the street before coming to a stop.
In the days after the collision, Portland Police Officer Shawn Schroeder, badge #58932, informed Ms. Little that Mr. Davis was unlicensed and uninsured. Despite his clear violation of Oregon law for making a dangerous left turn through a crosswalk, and causing a serious injury, Officer Schroeder told Ms. Little that he would not issue a citation or arrest Mr. Davis. He explained that Portland does not have a traffic division, that she should take up her concerns with City Council, and that she should feel fortunate that the driver did not leave the scene. Over the following weeks, as Ms. Little began to recover from her injuries, she made several calls to a variety of Portland Police phone numbers, often encountering busy signals, long wait times, and being told to call another number. Finally, after several complaints to the City about Officer Schroeder’s inaction, on April 11, Mr. Davis was cited for driving while suspended and uninsured. He was not cited for making a dangerous left turn, failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, or other violations of the Oregon Vehicle Code, and he was not charged with vehicular assault or any other crime. His vehicle was not impounded.
Mr. Davis has a long history of irresponsible driving, including several other citations for driving unlicensed and uninsured, as well as reckless driving, and driving under the influence, over the last 20 years. Following his citation, Mr. Davis received a $715 fine, which remains outstanding on top of another fine from November 2022, also for driving unlicensed. Ms. Little sustained a fractured right fibula in the collision and lacerations requiring several stitches. [Note: Thomas included photos with his letter, but they are too graphic to share here.]
She missed seven weeks of work and now, more than three months after the collision, continues to experience pain and limitations in her foot that prevent her from returning to full employment and limit her physical activity. She also sustained a concussion in the collision, which caused symptoms including light sensitivity and memory issues. Due to Mr. Davis’ failure to carry insurance, Ms. Little will receive no compensation for her medical expenses, lost income, and pain, suffering and disruption to her life. Mr. Davis has faced no significant consequences for his actions, and there is no reason to think he has stopped driving irresponsibly, unlicensed, and uninsured through the streets of Portland. I understand that our City faces multiple crises and that Portland Police are on the front lines of combating them. However, traffic violence has worsened in recent years, disrupting the lives of injury victims like Ms. Little, and making many citizens of Portland fear for their safety while walking, bicycling, and driving. I write on behalf of Ms. Little to request that the City prioritize proactive enforcement of irresponsible, unlicensed, and uninsured drivers. Further, I ask that when serious injury collisions occur, the Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County District Attorney’s office cite and/or prosecute dangerous drivers without the need for injury victims to repeatedly follow up and request action.
Thank you for your service to our City and for your attention to this matter. Please feel free to contact me to discuss further.
Christopher A. Thomas
Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost
Asked what he wants the DA and the PPB to do, Thomas said, “I just want them to treat these situations more seriously in terms of holding dangerous drivers accountable, and send a broader message that this is a widespread problem that’s gotten worse, and that a lot of people in our city are fearful for their safety because of it.”
*Note: Thomas is employed by the law firm of Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost; a BikePortland advertiser.