On Monday morning (2012.06.25), some guttersnipe spat on me and half-assedly threatened to kill me. Nothing was ever going to happen. It was one of those random things that happen in cities. But of course I called it in.
I dealt with an excellent 911 dispatcher. The problem was the attending police officer, A. Nuri (badge 8625). He listened to me in a rational, professional manner, then told me, in effect, if he had felt his life were threatened he would have run in the opposite direction. Should I call it in if I see this suspect again? I asked a couple of times. You could, he said, but as it stands there’s no basis to lay a charge. And certainly don’t call 911, he said. (A non-emergency dispatcher whom I talked to later unequivocally confirmed that initially calling 911 was correct. Dispatchers, I know from experience [and that dispatcher also confirmed], will just transfer your call if you phone the wrong number.)
In what I’ll describe here as a G20-style flourish, PC Nuri finished off our conversation by telling me I had been condescending from the beginning of the conversation. I gather it’s important for PC Nuri to show mastery over every situation, to second-guess the actions of a victim who emerged unscathed from what is legally an assault and death threat even if in practice it wasn’t much of either, and to offer vaguely menacing unsolicited commentary as to the victim’s tone.
The problem with telling a journalist he sounds condescending is that journalist tends to turn right around and report the facts for the permanent public record. And obviously I called Toronto Police for a comment. (A passive-aggressive drive-by posting on Twitter is less useful than saying nothing.) Tony Vella didn’t bother getting back to me as promised, but I tracked him down and was told his boss instructed him to say the following: “The best thing is if you have a complant against an officer, if you like, file a complaint against the officer. There are various ways to do that.”
There are two problems here. I actually wasn’t being condescending with PC Nuri. Trust me: If I had been, I’d have no trouble owning up to it. Then there’s the response-by-script that Vella’s superior forced him to issue. As I explained to Vella when we first talked on the phone, when a police officer calls a journalist condescending that journalist will report it. So in fact we have more avenues of redress at our disposal than simply filing a complaint. I reminded him of those parts of our previous chat and he just reiterated the script. I then told him that, at their next team meeting, the boss needed to be made aware that journalists are a special case.
So, PC Nuri, consider yourself Googlable. You have no one to blame but yourself and Tony Vella’s boss.