Should Cab Drivers Accused of Sexual Assault Be Allowed Behind the Wheel of a Taxi?
Should a cab driver accused of rape or sexual assault still be allowed behind the wheel of a taxi?
It's a debate the Anchorage Assembly has taken on since charges were filed against Yellow Cab driver Chidiebere Norman Nwokorie.
There's now a proposal to suspend the chauffeur's licenses of those accused of similar crimes, but some say it's unconstitutional because it presumes guilt before innocence and directly affects a driver's ability to make a living.
Everyone from drivers to an alleged victim spoke out during the Tuesday night Anchorage Assembly meeting about what goes on inside a cab.
“I've gotten into many cabs,” said one woman who claims she was a recent victim of sexual assault.
“I felt very uncomfortable because I don't feel like they should ask questions or tell you how beautiful you are,” said the woman, who says the problem is growing in Anchorage.
She continued: “I think as a community, as a whole, we bear the obligation of humanity and protecting everyone on a equal level, regardless of color, gender, creed, or if they are drunk.”
Assembly members want to suspend the chauffeur’s licenses of those who are accused of such crimes because they're in a position of trust.
“We tell a lot of people, ‘you've been drinking too much—call a taxi cab,’” said assemblyman Dick Traini. “I want to make sure we’ve got the absolute best service we can possibly have.”
“Kids are put in cabs, women in fragile situations are put in cabs. I think the public needs to know that it’s safe,” said assembly chair Debbie Ossiander.
But cab drivers claim they themselves are at risk by those who make false claims. “This woman ripped her clothes off in the back seat of my car and started sobbing while hitting herself,” said Megan Patrick, a female driver.
“She told the police officer on record that I stuck my penis in her vagina and what if she were pregnant.” Patrick insists suspensions based on accusations alone could cost someone his or her job.
“The police officer told me not to laugh and to think about what would have just happened if I was a guy, because he would have immediately arrested me,” she continued.
Assembly members say they're weighing the potential consequences of the proposal because with public safety on the line, the goal is to make sure anyone riding in a cab will be safe. Discussion continues as to whether action should be taken on accusations alone or if charges are filed.
Some drivers say they are regularly accused of assault because a customer doesn't want to pay their fare. However, they do admit there are people in their industry who are harming women and need to be stopped.
Ideas like installing cameras were mentioned because it would protect both the customer and the driver. Public testimony will continue on this ordinance at the next Anchorage Assembly meeting Sept. 27.