A crisis management expert said Uber had a proper response in the aftermath of the horrific Kalamazoo shooting, where an Uber driver allegedly shot and killed six people and wounded others.
The valuable ride-hailing startup was smart to quickly address that Jason Dalton — who a Michigan prosecutor said admitted to the six killings on Monday — passed his background check, according to James Lukaszewski, a crisis management consultant and president of The Lukaszewski Group Division of the Risdall Marketing Group.
He added that Uber should also be transparent about the details of how it vets drivers.
“Uber’s responsibility to its passengers and its own drivers is to clearly explain how they get these drivers and the process that they go through,” he told Business Insider. “They have an obligation to show how they vet these drivers.”
In fact, Uber has a thorough explanation of its background checks on its website.
In any case, Lukaszewski said he doesn’t expect this to have a big effect on Uber’s bottom-line. He said the airline industry is a good barometer, adding that airliners don’t typically see a decrease in passengers after a disaster aboard one of its planes.
“The fact is these huge catastrophic circumstances often don’t have that much impact the way you think they would,” he said. “So, the real thing is, it seems to me, is how will Uber’s customers react … if it isn’t in our own backyard, we live our lives the way we would normally live them.
“If it happens a second time, that’s another question,” he continued.
Dalton, who passed a background check with Uber, had no prior criminal record, multiple outlets reported.
“We are horrified and heartbroken at the senseless violence in Kalamazoo, Michigan,” Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, said in a statement. “We have reached out to the police to help with their investigation in any way that we can.”
In a Monday conference call, Uber said it isn’t planning on making changes to its background check system.
Prior to the shootings, Dalton had a “good” rating on the app, Sullivan said.
Dalton’s average rating from passengers was 4.73 stars out of five. The company deactivates drivers who fall below a certain level.
“There were no red flags if you will that we could anticipate something like this,” Sullivan said.
On the day of the shootings, one passenger did report that Dalton was behaving erratically.
Matthew Mellen told The Washington Post that Dalton’s driving was so reckless, he nearly jumped out of the car.
“He was like asking me, ‘Don’t you want to get to your friend’s house?’ ” Mellen said Dalton asked as he refused to slow down or stop.
Mackenzie Waite, Mellen’s fiance, said he told her that Dalton picked up a phone call during the ride, and that the driver started acting strangely afterward.
“He blew through a stop sign, sideswiped a car, starting driving in [and] out of the other lane of traffic,” Waite told the Post. “My fiance was just pleading with him to stop.”
Once he was out, Mellen called 911. He also sent a message to Uber. Waite said Uber did not immediately respond, and police didn’t get back to him for a description of the driver or car until 6:30 p.m.
Uber only suspends drivers immediately if the report is about violence, Sullivan said.
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