A Toronto police officer has been disciplined after he posed last week as a shivering flood victim wrapped in an orange towel and praising police heroics in a television interview.
"The water level kept getting higher; it was up to our knees," Nickolas Dorazio told a reporter and camera operator with another news station as he posed as a stranded GO Train passenger rescued after hours trapped at the Bayview extension last week..
"I'm just glad that one of the officers there — he actually picked me up," Dorazio said in the interview. "I couldn't believe it."
But what shouldn't be believed, as it turns out, is Dorazio's claims that he was rescued in the first place during a record rainfall on July 8 that wrecked homes, left thousands in the dark for days and stranded some 1,400 GO Train commuters.
CBC News has learned that Dorazio was actually a plainclothes police constable with the prominent Major Crimes Unit. Since the interview, he has been disciplined, removed from the unit and placed on patrol duty.
'It wasn't a very good joke'
"If it was intended as a joke, it wasn't a very good joke," Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said.
'To see someone behaving this way is very disappointing. I don't know why people do stupid things.' —Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash
Dorazio was actually called in last week to help with the flood rescue effort. As for why he decided to throw a shawl around his shoulders to dupe a TV news crew, pretending he was among those trapped for hours aboard a flood-stricken GO Train, Pugash said it appeared to be a poorly thought-out prank.
"It was a very tough night for a lot of people. It was harrowing," he said. "To see someone behaving this way is very disappointing. I don't know why people do stupid things."
In the two-minute interview, Dorazio describes a commuter train "packed" with passengers, of a water level rising to his knees, and of a kind-hearted officer who "carried me over because my leg started getting a little numb."
"I was just trying to get to Richmond Hill," he adds, grinning for the camera.
"I'm a little bit better, but I was so wobbly because I'm cold. It kind of gets you a little weak in your knees, and I guess that's why one of the guys tried to carry me here."
As the camera continues rolling, Dorazio wanders off and places the shawl around another man near a police cruiser and then walks away.
Dorazio has been with the force since 2006 and is on the "Sunshine list" of public sector employees. He earned about $103,000 last year.
Pugash said police are investigating whether Dorazio may have been egged on by other members of his team to pull the practical joke, as well as whether his superiors put him up to it.