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Kalamazoo Shooting Renews Spotlight On Uber’s Screening Process

Ride-sharing app's driver suspect had no apparent criminal history.

[Photo: Flickr user Arthur Sollano]

The tragic shooting rampage by an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday is casting a new spotlight on the ride sharer’s screening process.

Though suspect Jason Dalton reportedly did not have a criminal history and had passed a background check run by Uber, questions are still being raised about the service's screening process, especially in light of previous incidents involving drivers.

Just a few weeks ago Uber offered to pay $28.5 million to settle two class-action lawsuits brought against the company that alleged it misled customers over safety statements it made, including the slogans "safest ride on the road" and "gold standard in safety."

In reference to the lawsuits, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said, "We learned of systemic failures in Uber’s background checks," reported Forbes. "We have learned they have drivers who are convicted sex offenders, thieves, burglars, kidnappers and a convicted murder. This is only really scratching the surface."

Since Dalton didn’t have a criminal conviction before Saturday’s shootings, it’s reasonable to believe Uber couldn’t have done anything to detect he was a danger. But the very fact that he was an Uber driver—and reportedly picked up passengers right before and during the rampage—could give many potential passengers pause before getting into the backseat of their Uber ride.

Uber says that it uses a company called Checkr, which is nationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, to conduct screening services on its drivers. Checkr adheres to California state law and investigates people going back seven years. Uber has said it believes "that seven years strikes the right balance between protecting the public while also giving ex-offenders the chance to work and rehabilitate themselves."

The company’s terms and conditions, which every passenger must agree to before using the service, clearly spells out that passengers assume and use the service at their own risk: "You understand, therefore, that by using the application and the service, you may be exposed to transportation that is potentially dangerous, offensive, harmful to minors, unsafe or otherwise objectionable and that you use the application and the service at your own risk."

As for the events in Kalamazoo, Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan wrote in a short blog post, "We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this devastating crime and those recovering from injuries. We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can."

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