Attention on Uber After Kalamazoo, Michigan Shooting Rampage
The city of Kalamazoo, Michigan was terrorized Saturday night when a man, believed to be 45-year-old Jason Brian Dalton, went on a shooting spree for hours that left six people dead, and two wounded. Police have yet to pinpoint a motive that would explain why a married father of two would shoot people of different ages, genders, and ethnicities at random.
— CNN (@CNN) February 22, 2016
We do know that Dalton was operating as an Uber driver during the time of the murders, and even picked up fares in between shootings. In fact so much attention has been placed on Dalton’s profession that “Uber” is currently the main identifier being used in the media to describe him. Now the popular ride sharing app is facing scrutiny, as people question how its hiring practices failed to pinpoint Dalton as a possible liability.
But is Uber really to blame?
Uber regularly runs background checks on all prospective new drivers before allowing them to join its driver fleet. Third parties run each candidate’s name through databases and then flag anything suspicious. However, some say this system is less thorough than ones used by taxi and limo companies, which require candidates have their fingerprints taken to be submitted to law enforcement.
But even with fingerprint analysis, Dalton would have passed. According to Uber, Dalton passed all of his background checks and police said he had no criminal history. Another surprising fact is that Dalton had a 4.7 out of 5 rating on the app, and received mostly positive feedback from people he picked up.
However, Uber did admit that it failed to act on a report that claimed Dalton was driving erratically and endangering passengers, about an hour before cops say he went on his shooting rampage.
According to the New York Post, a passenger by the name of Matt Mellen called the police and complained to Uber that he was forced to jump out Dalton’s car around 4:30pm because Dalton was “speeding, driving on lawns and medians, and running stop signs.”
Uber said it only takes action over allegations of “bad driving” after first speaking with the driver. Therefore Mellen’s complaint was filed away into a pile of similar ones, instead of indicating a possible imminent threat.
So to answer our question “is Uber to blame?” the answer is not exactly.
Uber followed its typical hiring procedures and background checks, and had no reason to suspect Dalton would carry out such horrific crimes. Uber also relied on feedback from more than 100 riders that were picked up by Dalton during his time with the company, most of which were positive. It did, however, drop the ball when it came to the complaint submitted the day of the shooting. But even if Uber had disciplined Dalton, we can’t say that would have prevented his violent attacks.
Uber definitely has room for improvement, but continuing to refer to Dalton as the “Uber driver that shot people,” will only continue to draw negative attention to the company that ultimately isn’t responsible for this man’s crimes.