City Council to decide on 'zero tolerance' for prejudice taxi drivers

The City Council Tuesday will mull over adopting a "zero tolerance" policy that would entail the immediate revocation of a taxi driver's permit to operate at Los Angeles International Airport if that driver refuses to pick up customers because of racial animus or some other prejudice.

The proposed rules were prompted by a complaint in September by former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville, who said that because he is black he was refused a ride by a taxi driver at LAX.

Current rules provide for permit revocation after the third offense. The new proposed rules call for immediate revocation of a "driver's permit to provide taxicab service" if he or she refuses service based on "prejudice
against a specific race, nationality, religion, age, disability, sex or gender identity," according to a report by Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX.

Under the proposed new rules, informal warnings would be eliminated.

Refusals of service for other reasons would result in no less than six days suspension from the airport, while discourteous actions could lead to suspensions lasting no less than four days, under the proposed rules.

The revisions to the airport's penalties for taxi drivers are similar to rules adopted by the Department of Transportation, which issues citywide permits for taxi drivers, according to airport officials.

The stricter penalties were approved last month by the council's Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, which is chaired by Councilman Bob Blumenfield.

Blumenfield, who had introduced a motion to look into discrimination by taxi drivers, said the incident described by Glanville "made my stomach turn." But city officials do not appear to agree on whether the taxi driver's
actions against Glanville were motivated by race.

The driver who refused Glanville's ride was initially hit with a one-year revocation of his permit, but the revocation was downgraded to two weeks after the driver appealed to the Department of Transportation. The driver said
he refused service not because of Glanville's race but because the trip was too short and would have result in lower fares.

The revised penalties approved by the committee would replace existing enforcement rules included in an agreement with Authorized Taxicab Supervision Inc., an outside company that manages taxi dispatch and taxi stands for LAX.

The committee also requested that airport officials consider similar rules that would apply to the taxi companies themselves -- not just the drivers -- and for ride-hailing companies.

Airport police conducted an undercover operation in November with two black officers hailing trips from taxi drivers. Out of 25 requests made, they were refused five times, airport officials told the committee.

A couple of the refusals may have been because the trips were too short, but there were some cases in which taxi drivers refused giving rides before knowing the destination, airport officials said.

Blumenfield said he was "shocked" by the refusals, which he said pointed to a problem of racial discrimination among taxi drivers at LAX.

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