Lack of re­sources halts po­lice watch­dog re­view of of­fi­cer sui­cides

Toronto of­fi­cer’s death prompted 2016 vow to launch sys­temic re­view

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - Wendy Gil­lis CRIME RE­PORTER

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

TORONTO STAR

“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.

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