Manitoba

Bus driver attacked after asking rider to put on shirt, union says

Police are investigating after a passenger allegedly reached behind a safety shield and hit a Winnipeg bus driver.

Winnipeg police say incident happened in July in the area of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street

The union for Winnipeg Transit drivers says there are reports of threats or assaults on buses multiple times a month. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A Winnipeg bus driver was assaulted after asking a passenger to put on his shirt, a transit union official says.

"The driver basically asked him if he could please put on his shirt, because it was hanging over his shoulder," said James Van Gerwen, executive vice-president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505.

The passenger, who was just getting on the bus, "reached around the shield and slapped him, and exited the bus."

The assault happened on July 10, in the area of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street, said a post on Twitter from the Winnipeg Police Service.

Winnipeg Police posted a photo and description of the man on Twitter on Aug. 18. That tweet has since been removed.

A spokesperson for Winnipeg Police said the post was taken down because a suspect was identified. They could not say Monday whether charges had been laid.

Reports of threats, assaults every week

The transit union gets a report every time a bus driver is threatened or attacked, which usually happens six to eight times a month, Van Gerwen said.

That doesn't include violence on city transit that involves only passengers, which isn't reported to the union.

"I was actually very happy to see they posted the picture of an assailant to help catch the person," Van Gerwen said.

"Most I hear [about] never get any light of day, and the drivers never get any closure, the suspects are never apprehended."

This is an example of the shields installed on Winnipeg Transit buses in May. (CBC)

The Plexiglass shields that protect drivers, which have been in all buses since May, would be more effective if they provided more distance between passengers and the driver, Van Gerwen said.

"Assailants do have the ability to reach around and contact the driver," he said.

Even with the shield, drivers are trapped in their seats if someone tries to hurt them, Van Gerwen said.

"We don't have exit windows on the driver's side, so once you're in there, you're locked in there. You are at the mercy of anybody who could grab around that shield. They can still spit at you, they can slap you."

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

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