A file photo of a TTC streetcar in Toronto.
Credits: QMI AGENCY/STAN BEHAL
TORONTO -- This is not the better way.
Shame on the TTC for ordering driver Dino Oroc to hang up his uniform after he left his busy Queen 501 streetcar Wednesday afternoon to give chase to a man who had reportedly just sexually assaulted a female passenger on his route.
According to police, the streetcar was heading eastbound on Queen St. when a woman told the operator that she'd been sexually assaulted on the car by a stranger who had just exited near John St. The victim went to chase after her assailant and his union says Oroc didn't want her to go alone.
The 10-year veteran called transit control to contact police, put his flashers on and followed in pursuit, worried that the woman may come to some harm. Oroc, a marathon racer, got as far as Richmond and Peter streets before losing sight of the suspect.
Good on him, right?
Not according to his employer. The rules say that operators are not to leave their seats, let alone their vehicles, unless someone is in imminent physical danger.
"He's been relieved of duty," TTC spokesman Brad Ross said. "On the face of what we know today, the proper procedures and protocols were not followed and we have to make sure they are."
Transit union president Bob Kinnear is astounded that the TTC would rather quote the rule book than commend a driver who went above and beyond his duty to help a customer in distress.
"Is this their idea of better service - to sit in our seats while passengers are criminally attacked?" demanded Kinnear, head of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. "They have a policy and it's cut and dry, black and white, for them."
Oroc, he said, was trying to ensure his passenger wasn't harmed. "I'm quite proud of this operator," he added. "He should be commended for what he's done and not penalized and fired."
Kinnear said the TTC's action is especially discouraging at a time when the transit system is trying to foster a new attitude after years of customer complaints. "It's frustrating for us because I encourage our members to help out our passengers. We're the eyes and ears of the city. We're the keepers of the city."
This punitive treatment of Oroc will only set that all back.
"I can guarantee when we discuss this at the Sunday meeting, hundreds of operators are going to tell me, 'We're not going to do nothing, we're not going to get out of our seats'."
TTC chair Karen Stintz didn't return a call for comment.
Quite mindful of the bad optics, especially on a day the TTC just unveiled its new streetcars, the TTC spokesman took great pains to insist that Oroc hasn't actually been fired - yet. Relieved of his duties, the driver must appear before a disciplinary hearing where the various penalties - from reprimand to dismissal - will be considered depending on his record and the circumstances of the incident.
"Operators are not to get involved physically with any customers, that's the job of the police," Ross explained. "To chase somebody down the street is what the police are for."
By the strict letter of their policy, that of course is true. But should Oroc really have just remained at his post and let a distraught victim out alone on the street with her abuser without ensuring her safety?
You certainly don't want TTC vigilantes, stopping buses and streetcars and subways to chase down ever possible criminal who may cross their path. But we also shouldn't penalize transit employees who indulge in the very human response of wanting to help their fellow citizen. What kind of message does that send?
A message of drive on by.
And who can blame them? Knowing they can be terminated for going the extra mile for their passengers, we can likely count on the same, old surly attitude we've come to know.