Lack of resources halts police watchdog review of officer suicides
Toronto officer’s death prompted 2016 vow to launch systemic review
Three years after the suicide of a Toronto police officer prompted the province’s police watchdog to promise a systemic review of officer mental health, the review still hasn’t begun.
The problem, according to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), is a lack of resources and the fact that two other systemic reviews are already underway.
Back in 2016, director Gerry Mcneilly said that a growing number of complaints he was hearing about police mental health issues signalled a pressing need to tackle the problem, provincewide.
So one week after the suicide of a Toronto officer, Mcneilly said he would em- ploy a special tool of his office to launch a systemic review of officer mental health and suicides, examining police services across Ontario and making recommendations for change.
“I think we’re setting up officers to fail,” Mcneilly said in an interview in February 2016, saying he hoped his office would officially announce and launch the systemic review mid-year.
In the years since, police officer suicides have continued, with a spike in 2018 prompting Ontario’s chief coroner Dirk Huyer to launch a review of nine deaths.
Critics say that while they welcome that review, it has long been apparent that a detailed, provincial examination — such as the one committed to by the OIPRD — was warranted.
“It’s a little too late for us, and it’s a little sad that it took this number of deaths for them to spring into action,” said Heidi Rogers, whose husband, Toronto police Sgt. Richard Rogers, died by suicide in 2014.
When she complained to the OIPRD about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, which she says included severe anxiety and bullying, she says she was assured the forthcoming systemic review into officer mental health would tackle the issues.
The delay, Rogers said, has sent a message that “you don’t warrant our attention.”
Spokesperson Rosemary Parker stressed that the OIPRD director “continues to be very concerned about suicides, mental health and operational stress among police officers.” But the review has not been launched due to “resourcing issues” and two other ongoing reviews.
Problem not going away anytime soon. Continue reading at thestar.com/news/gta
“It’s a little sad that it took this number of deaths for them to spring into action,” Heidi Rogers says of a review by the province’s chief coroner. Her husband, Toronto police Sgt. Richard Rogers, died by suicide in 2014.