By Sarah Begley
February 22, 2016

Uber responded to criticism over the Saturday night shooting rampage by a Kalamazoo driver on Monday, emphasizing that no differences in its background check system could have predicted the incident which left six dead.

The company said in a conference call that the accused, Jason Dalton, had no criminal record, and a high customer feedback rating of 4.73 out of 5 stars on the platform. The company says Dalton had been approved to begin picking up passengers on Jan. 25, and had given a little more than 100 rides since then.

Asked whether changes to the background check policy might be in order, Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said no, pointing out that the company’s current system involves checking if a driver has any criminal record with local authorities, county courthouses and federal databases.

Sullivan says when the company receives reports that a driver has been violent, “we will suspend the driver immediately while we investigate the allegations.” But when the complaint is just about bad driving, like a call placed by a passenger in Dalton’s car earlier in the day, “we will typically talk to the driver first before suspending his or her account. That’s because we get a lot of complaints about bad driving, not all of which turn out to be 100% fair or accurate, and it’s important we hear both sides.”

Asked whether Uber might implement a “panic button” in its app, as it has in India, Sullivan said American riders know to consider calling 911 as their version of a panic button. Uber Safety Advisory Board member Ed Davis, the former police commissioner of Boston from 2006 to ’13, agreed it was necessary for riders to consider 911 their go-to source for emergency help. “When there’s an ongoing crime, especially a violent crime, you don’t want to confuse people” about who they should contact. “You don’t want to set up a second system that will not only confuse people but may delay help when it’s desperately needed.”

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