As you may recall on December 15th, 2009, I submitted an official complaint to the office of the Ombudsman of Ontario pertaining to the lack of support and leadership within the policing community on behalf of all police members and civilian staff suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My complaint has been very specific… that police services and specifically, the Ontario Provincial Police in conjunction with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services which oversees policing in the Province of Ontario have failed to properly assist in providing guidelines and support to officers or their families struggling with PTSD and other mental health issues. This complaint also addressed the serious issues also created by improper legislation of the government on time limitations, uncaring or untrained WSIB staff and their disrespectful actions, lack of confidentially, improper or no policies and also includes matters of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour that prohibits areas of treatment and recovery.
So much needs to be done and yet those truly responsible for providing leadership to the police community have failed miserably in providing guidance and assistance in this field of concern, Most policing associations have either kept their heads collectively in the sands or dithered significantly to prevent proper progress towards developing vigorous programs in the field of mental health within law enforcement.
Unfortunately, these associations and police services since this issue was raised, have done little to help those in so much need. For instance, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police referred to police officers seeking help for PTSD simply as causing a potential “financial tsunami”; the Police Association of Ontario have sought “presumptive legislation” and cancellation of a “prohibitive time period for claims” as their sole mandate. Both are good ideas, however, it is highly unlikely to succeed as a private member’s bill from the NDP which won’t see the light of day before the closing of parliament; and the Ontario Provincial Police Association along with the OPP Commissioned Officers’ Association have said or done almost nothing of significance towards this serious issue. All associations have acted with glacial speed while horrific problems escalate at very personal and family levels because of PTSD.
I am now absolutely thrilled to announce that the Ontario Ombudsman has now agreed to officially investigate and report upon the neglect or inaction of police leaders to address mental health issues and in particular “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” and its effects upon both policing staff and their families. Hopefully, new guidelines shall be developed with implementation lines set by the Ombudsman with the full impact of his office to ensure that any and all suggestions/recommendations are met in a timely fashion. The investigators from the Ombudsman’s officer known as Special Ombudsman’s Response Team (SORT) have been working diligently for months to gain an overview of the multitude of problems faced by all parties. They now have the full force of law to conduct an official investigation pertaining to the OPP and Ministry of CS & CS.
I have asked the question on many occasions, “PTSD… Who gives a damn?” There are a great many who in fact do care. I wish to genuinely thank those who have been instrumental in this quest for help pertaining to PTSD and mental health issues. Without their fortitude and support it would have been extremely difficult to advance this quest for change and justice since so many police leaders and associations refused to show true leadership: I wish to sincerely thank:
- Mr. Mark Bonokoski and the Toronto Sun newspaper for their outstanding series of articles outlining the severity of mental health issues within policing;
- President Bob Arbour, “OPP Veterans Association” who had the foresight and understanding to distribute my letter asking for support from fellow officers and families to contact the Ombudsman;
- Andy O’Hara & Peter Platt from “The Badge of Life” (Canada & USA) and “Police & PTSD – A Path to Recovery” for their devotion and support to me as their continued to broadcast the mental health concerns of policing
- OPP Commissioned Officers Association for distributing the original letter to their membership
- Mr. Vince Savoia, founder of “The Tema Trust Foundation” whose organization for First Responders and PTSD paved the way to bring PTSD to the fore while supporting our efforts;
- Canadian Armed Forces – “OSSIS” who have been instrumental in providing so much help to me that I could not obtain from the Ontario policing community with their Self & Family Support programs.
- To everyone who sent emails, telephoned or visited the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman in providing your stories and information regarding the neglectful and abusive system to address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from not only individual police services but also specifically from the Ministries of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Health and Labour.
- My own family and friends who have been relentless in their support to me during these extremely difficult times.
The Ombudsman will now officially investigate “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… The Loneliest Injury in Policing” and associated Operational Stress Injuries. Hopefully, the arguing, shelving of issues and hurtful conduct of others will now cease to allow police members and their families to receive the dignity, respect and help that they truly deserve.
Remember… if you know of anyone affected by OSI (PTSD) problems within policing in Ontario please urge them to contact the Ombudsman’s office. We now await the final report of the Ombudsman once this official investigation is completed.
Bruce C. Kruger
Detective Inspector (retired)
Ontario Provincial Police
TORONTO (March 31, 2011) – Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today announced he is launching an investigation into how the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) deals administratively with operational stress injuries (OSI) among its members. He will also investigate the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ administrative processes relating to OSI in police services across Ontario.