Uber officials said Monday the driver accused of killing six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan, had generally received favorable feedback from passengers and Saturday's tragedy could not have been foreseen.
Jason Dalton, 45, was arraigned Monday on six counts of murder as well as attempted murder and firearms charges following an hours-long shooting rampage at three locations in the Kalamazoo area. Dalton was approved to drive for Uber on Jan. 25 and had completed about 100 rides with a rating of 4.73 out of 5 before Saturday, company officials said.
"Overall, his rating was good," said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Uber.
Police believe that the shootings on Saturday were random, and Dalton has yet to officially enter a plea. Sullivan said Uber was contacted by several passengers about Dalton, including one man who also called 911 to report Dalton's erratic driving.
In cases of reported violence, drivers are generally suspended from Uber within minutes while the company investigates, Sullivan said. Reports of bad driving are more common, he added, and the company contacts drivers first to gain more facts before taking action.
"It's important to hear both sides," Sullivan said.
Uber did not comment on the timeline of Dalton and the company's actions on Saturday, citing the ongoing law enforcement investigation. But the company was able to provide assistance to authorities immediately, he said, and GPS tracking of Dalton's vehicle is also supporting the investigation.
Overall, Sullivan said, Uber did not plan to change its policies following the shootings. Drivers are screened based on their criminal and driving histories.
"No background check would have made a difference in this case because this person didn’t have a criminal history," Sullivan said.
The scrutiny Uber is facing is more a factor of its rapid expansion than security failures, added Margaret Richardson, a member of the company's safety advisory board and former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Holder.
"In many ways, this focus on Uber is a distraction from the availability of guns, and guns in perhaps the hands of people who shouldn't have such easy access to them," Richardson said. "A background check wouldn't have affected this person's ability to drive anyways."
Uber also does not plan to roll out a "panic button" within its app in the U.S. market, Sullivan said. The feature was added in India after a woman in New Delhi accused an Uber driver of rape.
Adding a panic button would not be in U.S. passengers' best interest, based on the company's consultations with safety experts, Sullivan said.
"Anyone who has a smartphone here knows you can easily engage 911, and people know the number to call," Sullivan said. "That's exactly the behavior we want to encourage rather than build something into our app in the United States."
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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