That was a slippery bit of word-meistering by Chief Julian Fantino at last week's press conference where he responded to charges of racial profiling. You'll rarely witness a slicker 10-point lesson in damage control. Here's Fantino's how-to guide.
Rule 1: Deny there's a problem. What he said: "Regardless of the inaccuracy of the Star's conclusions... we must now address the perceptions that have been created." What he meant: If there's a problem here, it's the loonies at the Star who created it.
Rule 2: Deflect attention from the real issue. What he said: "I have never denied that there are instances of inappropriate conduct by a small number of our officers -- some that have been viewed as discriminatory and racist." What he meant: Actually, I have denied this. But if it gets me out of this pickle, I'm willing to let a few of my boys hang out to dry.
Rule 3: Appear to be seeking conciliation. What he said: "I don't have a magic wand. Like all of us, I am only human. I need your support." What he meant: I'm not taking the rap for this mess, and I'll be damned if I get stuck cleaning it up.
Rule 4: De-emphasize the negative. What he said: "We do not have a racist... police service." What he meant: The black community's problem is one of perception.
Rule 5: Accentuate the positive. What he said: "The Toronto police service is acknowledged as being one of the best diversity training programs in policing anywhere." What he meant: If it's good enough for the rest of the world, it should be good enough for the black community.
Rule 6: Throw your critics a bone. What he said:"Although we are not perfect, in my opinion we have (a) police service made up of dedicated and professional men and women who have a very difficult and often dangerous and thankless job." What he meant: It's a friggin' jungle out there, and the fact that hundreds of blacks are being harassed just comes with the turf.
Rule 7: Appear to be serious about tackling the problem. What he said: "I want to emphasize that I do not tolerate any form of unprofessional conduct, nor will I tolerate any form of racism." What he meant: If the black community has a problem, hey, they can always take it to the police complaints bureau.
Rule 8: Create the illusion that you're open to options. What he said: "I invite input from interested community groups and will move quickly on recommendations." What he meant: We have enough studies collecting dust already. One more can't hurt.
Rule 9: Play the credibility card. What he said: "At my swearing-in as chief, I stated that my tenure will be characterized by integrity, dignity, diligence and most of all tolerance. Every day I work hard to live up those guiding principles." What he meant: I may set the tone for this operation, but I have no control over those crazy cops who go nuts on the street.
Rule 10: Add a little window dressing -- quote from revered dead people. What he said: "At times such as these I find encouragement and inspiration in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who stated, 'If we don't learn to live as brothers and sisters, we will perish as fools.'" What he meant: I know this sounds like a line -- it doesn't show up in my official text -- but I feel your pain, sort of.You're busted