TORONTO – Ontario is spending up to $500,000 to review workplace culture at the provincial police service, prompted by a number of recent officer suicides.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Monday that the government will create an independent review panel that will issue a final report by early fall, adding that action must be taken now.
“Frontline OPP members in cities and towns across Ontario have raised concerns,” she said in a statement. “Ensuring the safety and well-being of our frontline staff is my top priority.”
Jones has said Ontario Provincial Police are facing a mental health crisis, with 13 officers having taken their own lives since 2012.
The three-member independent review panel will consist of former associate chief justice Douglas Cunningham, former deputy attorney general Murray Segal and former NDP cabinet minister David Cooke.
Jones said the panel will start its work next month and give her an interim report by mid-summer.
The creation of the panel comes after the government announced new mental health supports for provincial police officers last month. The province will fully fund that program, with the police union delivering it.
“We took a first step in addressing some of the concerns at the OPP by recently announcing mental health support, but more must be done,” Jones said Monday. “The well-being of our sworn officers, civilian staff, and their families is too important.”
Ontario Provincial Police Association president Rob Jamieson has called the mental health program, which will give officers and their families access to confidential and personalized mental health services, a decisive first step in addressing what he calls the largest issue facing both active and retired members.
The OPP launched an internal review after a spate of suicides among its ranks last summer.
Ontario’s chief coroner is also looking into the issue, with a review of police suicides across the province after eight active officers and one recently retired officer died by suicide last year.