A footnote of fact to the Robert Curran 911 gun controversy in Hamilton Hills

This is not a story from my media beat.

It's only a footnote to the story in the Baltimore Sun this week about City Councilman Robert Curran telling a resident in his district that if he wanted to get police to respond more quickly to a 911 call, he should lie and tell them there is a gun involved. Just a footnote, but I think it's an important one.


You can read the story by Sun reporter Rebekah Brown here.

I was the resident who complained about police response at a Hamilton Hills community meeting last Saturday -- the one to whom Curran gave that misguided advice.


Here's the passage from the Sun story that involves me, and since Curran's account of what was said does not accurately describe my words and the concerns I voiced about lying to police, I feel the need to try to set the record straight. (Neither the reporter nor her editors knew of my involvmenet in the meeting, nor did I know a story was being written until after it was published.)

The councilman made his comments after a man voiced concerns about the time it took for police to respond to his complaint that his car had been vandalized.

"I've heard this many, many times," Curran said Wednesday. "I've been getting letters from community folks. They say they call 911, and the police don't show or show sometimes the next day. The gentleman said he felt it was a situation where there were kids jumping on the hood of his car, and he felt threatened."

I had the sense at the meeting that Curran wasn't listening very closely to our complaints. Based on his version of what he thinks I said, I now know he wasn't.

Here's the incident that prompted my complaint to Curran. Several months ago,  I looked out my front window one night around midnight after my dogs started barking. I saw three young men whom I guessed to be in their late teens or early twenties jumping on the roof of my car.

I yelled at them from the house and then ran out the front door toward the car. They took off down the street.

After I went back and got my keys from the house, I got in the car and tried to locate them in hopes of following them to determine where they lived. I couldn't find them, but later when I got back in front of my house and parked, I saw them coming back up the street about a half block away. One of them saw me getting out of the car and yelled, "Now, we're going to f--- you up, too."

That's when I called 911. Standing in the street as they approached, I described over the phone what was happening to the 911 officer.

But to the best of my knowledge, 911 never came. I know they didn't come right away, because I was left to deal with these three, and I never saw a police car that night.

Last Saturday at a Hamilton Hills community meeting, I told Curran and the two police officers present a shortened version of that account, including the threat shouted at me, and that's when the councilman advised me to say there was a gun involved the next time I called 911 if I wanted faster service.

I told him I couldn't do that, because I believe it is wrong to lie to police. Curran dismissed my ethical concerns by repeating his advice to tell 911 there was a gun involved.

I think it matters that a citizen told Curran it was wrong to lie to police, and he still ignored it. I think it matters a lot.


So, why am I writing this now?

Well, I didn't write it earlier because I was busy reporting and writing stories on my media beat at the Sun all week -- and the metro desk had this one covered, from breaking it through follow-ups.

But in searching for information on a blog post I was a was trying to report this morning, I came across the fact that Curran's office issued a statement Thursday that it said "clarified" his remarks at last Saturday's Hamilton Hills meeting.

"If my words were interpreted in the wrong way, then I regret that," his statement says. Read the full statement here.

Talk about about a non-apology apology.

If his words "were interpreted in the wrong way," why should he even apologize? The fault would be with the interpreters, not with him. And the interpeters would be the citizens of Northeast Baltimore or the members of the media who published his words.

There was no misinterpretation here, believe me. This City of Baltimore resident named Zurawik told him it was wrong to lie to police last Saturday, and he disimissed it. He only came around to that conclusion Thursday after two days of getting pounded by commenters and law enforcement officials reacting to published accounts of what he said.

Like I said, this is just a footnote. But before we can have a meaningful discussion about life in Baltimore we need to be dealing with facts. And statements like the one Curran put out this week are the enemies of facts.

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