The union representing OPP employees says it can’t wait for the force to complete an internal review of suicides among its members, so it’s launching its own mental health support program.
The Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) made the announcement Friday, one day after news that yet another OPP officer had taken his own life.
It was the 13th reported suicide of an active or retired member of the provincial force since 2012.
“We can be leaders and support our people. We feel this program will provide members incredible support, support that they need,” OPPA president Rob Jamieson said.
Last week, interim OPP commissioner Gary Couture sent a memo to all members informing them of the death of a constable by suicide.
The OPP recently created a wellness unit, expanded their peer support program and compiled list of qualified psychologists in communities in which it operates.
But the union says its members need more. Its new program, which will be formally announced in the coming weeks, will provide assistance above and beyond whatever changes the OPP introduces when its review wraps up this spring.
“The OPP is doing those things and doing their reviews, but what we’re doing from an association perspective is saying, ‘Listen, our people need help right now,'” Jamieson said.
Recommendations haven’t been implemented
The review announced by former OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes in August 2018 followed a 2012 ombudsman’s review of OPP suicides that made a series of recommendations.
According to a documentary byCBC’s The Fifth Estate, however, many of those recommendations haven’t been implemented.
One thing made clear when the review was announced is that the current support system is too complicated for some officers to navigate.
“If they’re in trouble they don’t want to get on a phone line and be put off to somebody else,” Hawkes said at the time. “There’s a high sense of frustration, and that adds to the stress.”
OPPA says it wasn’t consulted
The OPPA said it was never contacted for input on the internal review. The OPP could not confirm whether that would happen before the expected completion date.
In a statement, OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said the force was “optimistic that the internal review will shed further light on how the OPP can best support our people.”
A separate coroner’s investigation into police deaths in the province announced in January will involve the OPPA.
“We will be providing our perspective and bringing together our legal officers, our benefits team, our executive officers and their perspectives — folks that have worked specifically on the association side, who have unique insights that need to be shared,” Jamieson said.