How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ PTSD

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How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ PTSD

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 06, 2012 2:33 pm

How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ PTSD

BRACEBRIDGE, ONT.— Bruce Kruger insists on having the perfect seat.

He’s fled airplanes, cried in restaurants and rearranged furniture at friends’ homes — all for the perfect seat.

That seat is backed against a wall.

So no one can attack from behind.

Most of the time, the retired Ontario Provincial Police officer appears to be enjoying an idyllic retirement.

He has four grown children and 11 grandchildren with Lynn, his wife of 43 years. He has a charming home/bed and breakfast on the banks of the Muskoka River.

Kruger runs two joint Swiss Chalet/Harvey’s franchises, one each in Bracebridge and Huntsville. He’s the official town crier of Bracebridge.

He seems successful and “normal” in most every way.

But “it’s a mask,” says Kruger, 63, who calls himself “the great pretender.”

Kruger has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder connected with his 29-year OPP career. He suffers from anxiety, depression, guilt and periods of rage.

He contends the OPP has failed to deal adequately with his PTSD and that of many other officers. Kruger is so passionate in that belief, he has complained to Ontario Ombudsman André Marin and urged other past and current officers to do so.

Later this month, Marin is set to release a landmark, 150-page report on how the OPP handles “operational stress injuries” within its ranks. He says it will “shake up” the police community.

Police culture today treats mental illness as a weakness, Marin told the Star. Officers who suffer from workplace stress are told to “suck it up” or are ostracized.

The Star spoke to about a dozen officers in total, eight of them retired and active OPP officers. Most of them are among the 78 OPP members and 29 municipal police who contacted the ombudsman about their PTSD (the Star also interviewed three municipal officers).

Two current OPP officers asked for anonymity because of fear of reprisals. But the stories of all eight interviewed by the Star raise a number of issues:

• They say the OPP has no protocol for dealing with PTSD over the long term — the condition can take a while to manifest itself, and can be chronic.

• Unlike a profession such as firefighting, they argue, in which it’s a given that cancer is a job risk and Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims are fast-tracked, there’s no such quick response with the OPP.

• The officers also say OPP management is woefully ignorant of PTSD and its treatment. And that there’s an atmosphere of denial, shame and secrecy.

Denis Lapalme, who was the OPP psychologist for 10 years until he left in August, contends the force has improved its response to PTSD as understanding of it has evolved.

“Over time, we’re doing things differently now than we did before,” he says. “That means people who retired some time ago may have not got the same level of care, treatment or approach that people are now getting.

“I think things have changed. Our level of awareness has changed and our level of care and compassion has changed. Society has also changed.”

Many officers hail the efforts of OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis, who assumed the leadership in August 2010. They call him a man of integrity who is determined to change the culture.

Lewis, who has read the ombudsman’s report, declined to be interviewed about it until it becomes public.

On a warm September day, Kruger strolls toward the stretch of the Muskoka River running behind his property. He carries bread in one hand.

One duck approaches him, then another. They’re hungry. The ducks pluck the bits of bread out of his hand.

“The whole river would be here if I quacked,” Kruger says.

Feeding the birds is comforting. A perfect day, he later tells his wife, would be driving his boat while simultaneously feeding ducks. It’s all part of his comprehensive therapy.

Kruger traces back his PTSD to the violence he experienced as an OPP officer, which includes:

Shooting and killing a prison escapee who was pointing a shotgun at his partner in 1977.

Finding slain OPP officer Rick Verdecchia frozen solid in a snow bank with three bullet holes between his eyes in 1978. Kruger stayed with the body to protect the scene for several hours.

Coming upon the bodies of a father and his 6-year-old son who had drowned in 1978, and having to row the bodies back to the shore of Healey Lake.

Before retiring in 1999, at the age of 51, he had witnessed countless other horrors, including gruesome accidents, sexual assaults and suicides, some involving children.

He’s now on two medications, an anti-depressant and a blood-pressure drug that stops the vivid nightmares that used to leave him screaming and panting.

“The nightmares were mostly fictitious gunfights,” Kruger says, “and I’d be right in the middle of it.”

He also drives to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at least twice a week to see a psychologist for cognitive therapy and an occupational therapist to help him deal with the sitting issue.

Occasionally he has appointments with a Toronto psychiatrist.

Because he can freeze up in certain situations, Kruger carries a card in his wallet notifying people that he suffers from PTSD and might “need a moment to settle.”

PTSD is a well-documented illness that is mostly associated with soldiers who have seen hell in combat zones. The illness was once called shell shock.

In recent years, there’s been a growing awareness that it can strike far beyond the battlefield.

“In police work, these are guys who are exposed to life-threatening stressors as part of their job,” notes Dr. Randall Boddam, who was senior psychiatrist for the Canadian Forces from 1996 until 2010 and now works with police officers along with veterans.

“I’ve heard police say, ‘When I pull a car over, I don’t know what I’m going to be getting into.’ That’s anxiety-provoking in itself.”

He says he believes many officers are suffering from PTSD and don’t know it or won’t admit it. “There’s a stigma.”

Anna Baranowsky, a clinical psychologist who works with police officers in private practice, points out that PTSD “is really a nervous-system disorder.”

Some people have a latent vulnerability to the condition, while others “are incredibly hardy and they do seem to be able to go through exposure to a lot of disturbing material and be able to tolerate it fairly well,” adds Baranowsky, CEO of the Traumatology Institute in Toronto and author of What Is PTSD? 3 Steps to Healing Trauma.

Police officers make up 10 to 15 per cent of her client base.

She says it’s key to catch the disorder early.

“People can recover, but if we see ourselves as being strong and we won’t tolerate any kind of weakness, then what we might end up doing is pushing (ourselves) until we are past the point of recovery, and that is really dangerous.”

PTSD can be relatively short-lived or chronic. Symptoms include flashbacks, rage, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, nightmares, hyper-vigilance and an exaggerated startle response.

It can lead to abuse of alcohol and/or other substances.

PTSD can also spark suicide: a sufferer has a significantly higher risk of taking his or her own life.

Four OPP officers have committed suicide in the past two years, more than have died in active duty. At least one was known to suffer from PTSD.

No one keeps statistics on police suicides in Canada, but in the United States in 2008, 141 police officers committed suicide, more than double the number killed by criminals. It’s not clear how many suffered from PTSD.

And the number of police officers who report post-traumatic stress is rising.

According to statistics from the RCMP, the number of officers receiving benefits for PTSD has almost doubled in the past four years, from 1,077 in 2007-2008 to 1,955 in 2011-2012.

In Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board reports that in the past five years, 182 provincial and municipal police officers have been allowed benefits under traumatic mental stress.

Police officers, correctional service officers and paramedics rank just behind bus drivers and subway and transit operators in the number of Traumatic Mental Stress claims allowed by WSIB.

The WSIB does not release data on how many claims are rejected, so the number of police officers applying for benefits under mental stress are believed to be much higher.

Officers interviewed for this story suggest that undiagnosed or untreated post-traumatic stress may be why some officers act aggressively toward the public or otherwise behave inappropriately, sometimes rubbing their superiors the wrong way.

In June 2010, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered the reinstatement of Toronto police Const. Ariyeh Krieger, a rookie who was fired after over-reacting to a patron at a McDonald’s.

The tribunal ruled that Toronto Police Service discriminated against Krieger, who was known to be suffering from PTSD because of an earlier incident on the job.

Against this backdrop are skeptics who think some police are just trying to get off work by claiming phantom medical illnesses.

When current Ontario Ombudsman Marin was serving that role with the Canadian Forces, there was a common belief that soldiers reporting PTSD were “fakers, malingerers and poor soldiers,” he reported in 2001.

But the evidence suggested that exaggerated or fake symptoms involved “only 1 to 3 per cent.”

Kruger, the son of a police officer, says the seeds of his PTSD were planted in 1977, when he shot and killed James McGrath, a career criminal and escapee from Joyceville penitentiary.

McGrath, 52, had broken into the Orillia residence of MPP Gordon Smith. Smith’s wife, Jean, returned home to find McGrath looting their home.

Armed with a shotgun, McGrath stole cash and jewelry, then fled in the family Volkswagen.

He led police on a chase that ended when McGrath slammed into a tree. McGrath jumped out of the car and pointed the loaded shotgun at Kruger’s partner.

When McGrath kept advancing, Kruger shot and killed him.

He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

Kruger says he was traumatized again in 1991 when he learned that someone had been making freedom of information requests into the shooting. That person tracked down Kruger a year later.

He turned out to be McGrath’s son, and Kruger was certain the son wanted to settle the score with the man who killed his father.

Fearing for his safety and his family’s, Kruger says, he asked the OPP for assistance but was told to deal with it himself.

When the son came to his office on Jan. 16, 1992, Kruger was so terrified that he sat with his gun in his open drawer, and a plainclothes officer posed as a secretary nearby with his gun by the typewriter.

As it turned out, the son just wanted to find out where his father was buried and if the man had any redeeming qualities. They shook hands and the son left.

That saga and other disturbing experiences on the job, says Kruger, led to his nightmares, angry outbursts and crying episodes.

And there was alcohol abuse. “There’s sometimes you just can’t drink enough,” Kruger recalls of the days before he got it under control.

He says there was limited counselling available through the OPP. And that the culture was one of toughing it out, or at least pretending stress wasn’t an issue.

Kruger believes if he had ever divulged that he was experiencing PTSD symptoms earlier in his career, “I would never have been promoted.” He reached the level of detective inspector.

Two years before he retired, Kruger’s superiors ordered him to undergo anger-management therapy. He had come to be known, he says, as “the officer from hell.”

Kruger became even angrier after that.

What should have happened, he says, is that someone would have read his file, learned about all the horrendous things he’d experienced, and realized he was suffering from PTSD.

“They still don’t do that now,” he contends. “It’s that kind of quality research and care for the officers that’s truly needed.”

Kruger believed that once he retired from the job, his symptoms would disappear. In fact, they got worse for years.

It wasn’t until 2002, three years after he’d retired, that Kruger was finally diagnosed with PTSD, by a civilian psychiatrist.

Still, it hasn’t been easy to get treatment.

In his complaint to the ombudsman, Kruger noted that he had been turned down by the OPP employee assistance program, which is available only three months after retirement, so he turned to the Canadian Forces website.

As a result, he received “unbelievable support and immediate contacts from several sources,” he told the ombudsman.

One person at Canadian Forces took it upon himself to contact the psychiatrist in charge of its PTSD program.

Col. Rakesh Jetly, psychiatry and mental health adviser to the Canadian Forces surgeon general, contacted Kruger personally, giving him suggestions for treatment, and then took time to find the best facility for his needs, Kruger says.

He was soon admitted to Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, spending February and March 2010 there. He paid for that himself.

In the time he was there, Kruger says, no member of the OPP visited him or any other OPP officer.

In 2009, Kruger applied to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to be reimbursed for the costs of his various treatments.

But most of the traumatic events of Kruger’s career occurred years ago, and the timing is crucial because WSIB policy is to not grant financial assistance to officers if they began suffering from PTSD before Jan. 1, 1989.

Kruger argued in an appeal that meeting with McGrath’s son in 1992 was partly responsible for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Finally, last December — 2-1/2 years after he’d first applied — Kruger’s claim was approved, retroactive to when he started getting treatment.

“If an officer was bleeding to death, would he have to wait to help for this length of time?” asks Kruger. “PTSD is just another method to die, although a little slower.”

He says he’s out of pocket $25,000 but hasn’t been reimbursed yet, and doesn’t know how much he’ll receive.

Kruger believes the OPP has much to learn from the Canadian Forces.

The ombudsman for Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence has been monitoring the military’s handling of PTSD for the past decade.

There are now 26 mental health clinics at bases across Canada, and seven Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres. Canadian Forces also have a number of educational and screening programs — all personnel are screened three and six months after deployment.

There is also a peer support program, Operational Stress Injury Social Support, a joint initiative of the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada.

Yet the Canadian Forces has its own struggles, as was pointed out in September when ombudsman Pierre Daigle released his report Fortitude Under Fatigue.

In his findings, Daigle said he was “troubled” that the Canadian Forces still does not have an appropriate system in place to determine the numbers of members affected by PTSD.

At first, Kruger felt shame about his PTSD and was loath to go public with his story.

He is a prominent member of the Bracebridge community as town crier — he has won international awards and performed for the Queen — and the last thing he wanted was for people to know about his inner demons.

One of his sons and other relatives are OPP officers.

But things changed through his friendship with former Toronto police sergeant Eddie Adamson, who blamed himself for the 1980 death of Const. Michael Sweet during a botched robbery at a Toronto nightclub.

Kruger and Adamson became friends after Adamson moved to the Bracebridge area.

They would meet for coffee to share their experiences on tactical teams.

“He and I used to sit and shoot the bull,” Kruger says. “We would discuss our horrific difficulties, from the nightmares to the drinking.”

One day in 2005, when Adamson decided he couldn’t handle the pain anymore, he took a room at the Sundial Inn in Orillia. He also took his notebooks and correspondence related to the shooting of Sweet.

He drank while poring over the notebooks. Then he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

The family successfully fought the WSIB to get Adamson’s cause of death changed from suicide to PTSD. They then lobbied to get Adamson’s name on the Toronto Police Wall of Honour, something they have yet to achieve.

Adamson’s suicide got Kruger thinking that things had to change. So he wrote to the ombudsman’s office about PTSD among police officers.

The office replied that it needed to hear from more people before it might conclude PTSD was a systemic problem.

Kruger contacted the Ontario Provincial Police Association, the Police Association of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and asked them to circulate a letter asking for anyone suffering from PTSD to write to the ombudsman.

They all refused, he says, telling him everything was under control and there was no need for this.

Kruger also sent a letter to the Ontario Provincial Police Veterans’ Association.

President Bob Arbour contacted him and said he’d be glad to circulate the letter.

Eventually, the Ontario Provincial Police Commissioned Officers’ Association also circulated the letter.

“I had calls all across Canada,” Kruger says. “Several came out of the States, from retirees. And the stories went on and on and on. I get an average of one to two calls per week in regards to people suffering from post-traumatic stress on the job, and they don’t have anywhere they feel safe to turn to. And there are still no mechanisms in place to guarantee their confidentiality to the satisfaction they’re looking for.

“I was not going to let this go. I was determined that I wanted nobody ever to go through the hell that I and my family have. I don’t want the next generations to go through this either.”

Sitting in a wall-backed chair in his Bracebridge house, where one room is filled with Kruger’s OPP mementoes and bravery medals (one April he swam out into the frigid Muskoka River to rescue a woman), Kruger talks about his recovery.

In Toronto, with his occupational therapist at his side, he goes to a downtown restaurant such as East Side Mario’s and tries sitting out in the open.

He is timed. Five minutes. Six minutes. By eight minutes, he can’t take it.

“So far it’s not working,” he says.

Kruger says his sitting issue goes back to the murder of fellow OPP officer Tom Coffin in 1997.

The killer came from behind and shot Coffin in the head at close range while Coffin was off-duty at the Commodore Hotel in Penetanguishene. The shooter had been charged with impaired driving by Coffin in April 1996.

Kruger pays tribute to his wife for sticking with him — and for scoping out restaurants and other venues for that safe, perfect seat.

“I can laugh and joke about it,” he says, “but the reality is it’s absolutely terrifying.”

Staff Reporters
Curtis Rush crush@thestar.ca and Liam Casey lcasey@thestar.ca

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/a ... icers-ptsd
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Re: How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ P

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:11 pm

PTSD hurts families of police officers, too

Debora Fleming remembers the day she decided to leave Marc, her husband of two decades.

About two years ago, Marc, an Ontario Provincial Police constable on disability, had taken their then-11-year-old son, Kendall, to his first hockey game after the boy had gotten over a respiratory illness. Daughters Rachel, 16, and Sarah, 9, were in tow.

But Kendall took himself out of the game, still exhausted from his illness.

On the ride home, the father berated his son.

“Flemings aren’t quitters,” he yelled. “You’re a coward.”

The girls said nothing. When the group arrived back at the family home in Cochrane, Ont., Kendall went straight to his room.

Mom Debora asked the girls what was going on. Rachel mentioned the yelling and confessed she hadn’t supported her brother. Sarah said her father was right to excoriate the boy.

For Debora, already tired of beatings at the hands of Marc, that was the last straw. “My oldest daughter doesn’t defend her brother in any way,” Debora recalls. “And my youngest daughter is convinced it’s true. I couldn’t turn that into a positive.”

The broken Fleming family is a casualty of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nineteen years ago, Marc was beaten nearly to death on the job, and he says he’s been in the grip of PTSD every since.

Sadly, so have his wife and children.

Experts say PTSD has harmed many families. “We see higher rates of divorce, family strain and social isolation,” reports Dr. Ash Bender, medical director of the psychological trauma program at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “You lose your ability to feel pleasure and love.”

Bender says more than half the workers who have been treated at the trauma centre were divorced or separated, and he believes more needs to be done to build up family support structures for people with PTSD.

The toll of PTSD on families will figure in Ontario Ombudsman André Marin’s upcoming report on “operational stress injuries” and the OPP.

The 150-page report, the biggest of Marin’s seven-year tenure as ombudsman, is expected to include some criticism of how the provincial force deals with PTSD.

Marc, now 59, is among the 78 OPP officers who have complained to the ombudsman’s office that the force has neglected them in their battle with the disorder.

Marc Fleming’s problems began on Dec. 20, 1993.

“That’s the day my husband died,” Debora says.

On duty as a constable, he got a call at 3 a.m. about a break-in at a house in Bothwell, southeast of London. He was 45 minutes from the end of his shift — and an 11-day Christmas holiday.

On his way to the crime scene, Fleming saw a car hurtling toward him, so he pulled it over.

It turned out that the driver, Harold Atkinson, was the man who had burgled the house in Bothwell.

The two fought, with Fleming taking several blows to the head. At one point Atkinson fled into the woods while Fleming crawled back to his cruiser to radio for help. He had lost his glasses during the struggle and couldn’t talk because his lower dentures were smashed, with bits lodged in his throat.

His radio calls were indecipherable. The police had no idea where he was.

Fleming and Atkinson physically fought for some time before the officer pulled out his revolver. After two misses, he eventually shot Atkinson.

The pair ended up in the same ambulance, then the same emergency room, and, finally, on the same floor in the ICU.

Fleming suffered head trauma, bruising, lacerations on his face and a concussion. He left the hospital four days later.

The emotional impact of the incident was immediate. “I was bawling all the time,” Fleming recalls. “I was suicidal, depressed and didn’t know why I survived.”

He sought the services of a police psychologist. He knew something was wrong, but neither he nor the psychologist could figure it out.

A neurologist in Kingston said his skull was healing and the damage wasn’t permanent.

Four months after the shooting, a psychiatrist diagnosed Fleming with PTSD.

His nightmares were so bad that he’d wake up screaming, biting and punching anything in reach, including his wife and children. Eventually he ended up sleeping on his own.

Fleming developed an intense fear of guns, police officers and sirens.

He isolated himself and zoned out. He wouldn’t hear knocks on the door or the phone ringing. Most days he sat in a catatonic state, staring at the television.

And he got angry. Really angry. He yelled at his kids and his spouse. He once throttled Debora so hard her jaw nearly broke.

Debora harboured her own anger. First, there was the change in her husband’s character.

And at Atkinson’s trial (he was convicted of assault and other charges and served five months), she had to listen to the audio record of the events from that night, picked up through Fleming’s police radio.

She recalls thinking: “(Atkinson) is not listening to you, he’s not stopping. Do it. Shoot him. You’re weighing the cost of shooting instead of thinking about your life and your family.”

Fleming never returned to work. He got disability payments from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, he says, but the WSIB cut him off a few times and he had to appeal to get payments again.

He retored from the OPP last month.

He has been on medication since the incident and gets regular psychological treatment.

Intimacy died between the couple. “You couldn’t touch him, not even a hug,” Debora recalls. “We were just two ships passing in the night.”

Debora says the OPP offered her and her children very little support. She had to seek out her own therapist and is now on medication and on a leave from work as a teacher.

Support programs for the families of PTSD-afflicted police officers either don’t exist or are lacking, CAMH’s Bender says.

Among the OPP officers who spoke with the Star, several reported marital discord or breakdown.

Spouses are on the front line of mental-health support for partners suffering from PTSD. Usually, they’re the first ones to be aware of the problem. For many, it’s too much pressure.

Former Peel Regional Police officer Gary Maidens was ambushed and shot through the neck when he responded to a fake report of an automobile accident in 1977.

He says that in the aftermath of the shooting, he began to experience difficulties in his marriage. His later broke up with his wife, Margaret, who was pictured as a supportive spouse in newspaper photos when Maidens was released from hospital.

But other spouses persevere, sometimes amid terrible behaviour on the part of their PTSD-afflicted partners, and even find the energy to fight alongside them for better understanding and treatment of PTSD.

Const. Tammy Bourque, who works as a crime analyst at OPP headquarters in Orillia, says she’s fully behind her husband, Michael Polson, who has been battling for three years to get supervisors and others to understand his PTSD.

“I’m the voice for him when I’m at work and people ask me how he’s doing,” Bourque says. “I’m honest with them. I’ll tell them exactly how he’s doing because I want them to realize what PTSD is. I’ve counselled quite a few officers, actually, because of what he’s been through and what I’ve been through with him.”

In Kingston, retired OPP officer Raymond Smillie says he takes medication to fight off suicidal and homicidal urges. His wife of 46 years, Barbara, has dealt with Smillie’s rage over loud noises — everything from running the vacuum to shutting the cupboard door too loudly.

“There are a lot of guys out there having a lot of trouble,” Barbara says. “I think that they (OPP) think that when you have this trauma you should be affected immediately. But that’s not how it works. You got to be a strong macho guy who can’t give in to your feelings.”

Asked how she has coped with her husband’s PTSD over the years, she replies, “I guess I’m a strong woman. I’ve put up with a lot. It’s much better now, but there are still moments.”

In late September, the Flemings drove to Toronto to discuss the ravages of PTSD in a three-hour interview at the Star. Fleming wore his wedding ring. Debora didn’t wear hers.

The wife recounted how, in the fall of 2010, she drove eldest son Ryan to Ottawa, where he was about to start the graphic design program at Algonquin College.

During the trip southeast, she told her son about her plans to leave Marc.

“I wasn’t shocked when she told me,” Ryan, now 20, says on the phone from Ottawa. “I was ready to leave. I was getting tired of all the yelling and the threats.

“Looking back at the whole picture now, we could have left way before that point. His behaviour wasn’t right. My friends’ dads didn’t act like that. But I just didn’t accept it at the time.”

Back in Cochrane, Debora went to the local OPP detachment with the idea she could secure an officer or two to stand guard on move-out day. But once police heard her stories — of being punched and thrown around the house on a few occasions — they went to arrest Marc at the local arena, where he had taken Kendall for hockey.

When police arrived, Kendall was in the dressing room but daughter Sarah was with Marc.

“I felt so bad for Sarah,” Marc says in a soft voice, “because she saw everything.”

He spent more than three months in jail — no one bailed him out — and eventually pleaded guilty to several counts of assault. He was given a two-year probationary sentence.

Ryan was alone in Ottawa when his father was arrested. He couldn’t concentrate on school because he spent most of his time fretting over his family. By Christmas he dropped out of school.

Meanwhile, Debora moved the family to Ottawa while Marc was in jail. But Ryan returned to Cochrane, moved in with a friend and worked as a lifeguard at a community pool.

One day, a few hours before his shift, Marc showed up where Ryan was living, even though the court had ordered him to stay away from the family. Marc just wanted to see his boy after six months without contact.

“I didn’t want to see him,” Ryan says. “I was done with him. So I called police and took off.”

He was late for work and fired the next day. His mother, back in town briefly, tried to straighten things out with Ryan’s boss, but it didn’t work. So he returned to Ottawa to live with his family.

Days bled into each other as Ryan slept most of the time. In the fall, while he was still at school, he saw a counsellor who had suggested Ryan was depressed. He didn’t accept that.

“But in the summer, after sleeping for about six months, I realized I was in a really bad place,” Ryan says. “Maybe this is what depression is.”

So he told his mom to bring him to a hospital. He started anti-depressants but felt flat emotionally, so he quit. Now he’s working again as a lifeguard and has made new friends who have become a support circle.

Debora says she has partly forgiven her husband. She had the court change the conditions on his probation. Now he visits Ottawa one or two weeks a month, but he is more like a visitor and sleeps in the basement.

Might they reconcile?

“I don’t know what will happen in the future,” says Ryan. “I don’t think they’ll be getting back together.

“I see changes in my dad. He’s working on this, he doesn’t explode like he used to.

“But it’s a slow heal.”

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Re: How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ P

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:17 pm

Police officers open up about secret work stresses

As journalists, we sometimes have to report on carnage and lives that have been shattered.

At a crime or accident scene, the police stand tall and seemingly fearless as they take command.

For the Star project on post-traumatic stress disorder among OPP and other officers, we saw a different side of police.

The broken part.

We saw big, strong men crumble, their eyes laying bare their tortured psyches.

To a man the officers we interviewed, by phone or in person, were at times tearful, anxious, fearful, scattered and ashamed.

However, they didn’t want to hide behind a mask anymore.

Once we reached out to them, they wanted to tell their stories of collapse, and of perceived abandonment by their employers.

One officer even drove to the Star building from Ottawa.

Marc Fleming arrived with his wife, Debora. At a photo shoot, they were asked to move closer together, and Debora snickered under her breath, “Oh, this is going to be a historic photo.”

Unbeknownst to us, they had separated. She had been assaulted by her husband at one point in the past. The two are in couples’ therapy.

Sometimes, the officers talked to us with their wives present. Some wives were long gone.

Some wept openly when asked to recall incidents.

And some wouldn’t talk at all because of fear of reprisal from the OPP.

In an email, one officer said: “I feel that by my words being made public I am putting my current disability benefits at risk. Because of the fact that OPP management exacerbated my current level of disability, those who decide if I continue to receive my benefits could quite easily turn my case into one that prevents their continued approval. I apologize for my on again/off again positions.”

You can’t see PTSD as you would a facial scar. When you first meet the officers, you don’t witness the inner pain.

When we first met former OPP detective inspector Bruce Kruger over lunch on the patio of his Swiss Chalet restaurant in Bracebridge, he was everything you would expect in a man who is spearheading the charge to improve the way the OPP treats officers diagnosed with PTSD.

Well-spoken and intelligent, he was won medals for bravery and exemplary service.

But when he tried to talk about the time he shot and killed an escaped prisoner, he choked up.

His eyes quickly filled with tears, and he couldn’t continue.

In our photo studio a few weeks later, there some unexpected trouble.

We had not alerted photo staff to Kruger’s anxiety.

When two employees suddenly burst in, Kruger’s face flushed scarlet red, his eyes darted back and forth, and he began twitching as if they were assassins in disguise.

“I don’t think I can do this,” he muttered. We calmed him down.

In most of the interviews, the officers were soft-spoken and nervous, and they rambled. “Oh, I lost my train of thought,” was a common refrain.

Some officers seem to bear their PTSD rather well on the outside.

But you can feel anger below the surface.

One of the saddest stories was that of a former Peel police officer, Gary Maidens.

He was the first Peel officer shot in the line of duty, in 1977. He had been lured by a false accident report and shot through the neck.

He survived, but something in him died.

He and his wife split up within the year, and a few years later, his career unravelled. He admitted that after the shooting, he was self-destructive with money, alcohol and womanizing.

Living in Halifax now, he has been happily married to his third wife for 25 years, but he regrets how his life turned out otherwise.

In all, the officers were gracious, thoughtful and open.

Police tend to keep things bottled up inside, so it was poignant to witness them letting their emotions spill out.

crush@thestar.ca

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/a ... k-stresses
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Re: How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ P

Postby Thomas » Sun Oct 07, 2012 6:58 am

A Canadian Police Officer Died Today from PTSD

Posted on April 15, 2012

Attention: Mr. Andre Marin; Ombudsman of Ontario.

Dear Sir,

Yesterday, once again I have attended the funeral of another police officer who proudly served Ontario. This member had contacted me for help in 2011 regarding his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At that time I assisted him as best I felt possible, urging him to seek treatment and outlining the various options such as Homewood’s PTSD program. Sadly, this OPP officer within weeks of being released from the Homewood hospital took his own life with his service revolver within the detachment where he once so eagerly and with great respect performed his duties as an OPP Supervisor.

A member of the family wrote to me, urging that I continue to fight for change… change so that this person didn’t die in vain. She advised:

“I write this to you as I cry for my daughter, her boyfriend, his sister and mother and his Dad who died today because of “PTSD brought on by police duties”…he committed suicide at his workplace. He too, attended Homewood, returned to work and couldn’t fight his demons. He was 48 years old. So please continue on with your work so that another family won’t have to go through this.”

It is now 831 days since I submitted my plea for help to you, Sir. Twice previously in my attached correspondence, I forecast that such devastation would occur again, if immediate action was not taken to change this completely flawed system. Sadly, this prediction became a reality.

Kruger Letter to the Ombudsman - March 19th, 2011(attached)

“Do more officers needlessly suffer or commit suicide due to inaction by all parties? Have enough studies not been done and meetings held?”

Kruger Letter to the Ombudsman – February 12th, 2012 (attached)

“I urge you, Sir, to please… indicate a time frame that your report will be finalized and submitted thus assuring the swift presentation of this extremely important report before more irreparable damage is done!”

I am fully aware of the complexities of this issue, and I’m also conversant of the activities of the Ministry of Labour, (WSIB) and the meeting that finely has taken place directed by a “Master Facilitator“. This sounds impressive at first blush, but… why has this been so horrifically long for a government agency to act upon this and for how much longer will the participants continue this unimpressive charade! Please keep in mind this is only their second meeting in two years with the first one cancelled simply due to a fire alarm sounding! Not only is the time frame to date, disgraceful but that there is not even a target date to set objectives, or time goals for initiatives to be in place. Matter of fact, it appears that these various organizations simply cannot get around money issues instead of seeing the death and destruction that their lack of action is creating! Their next meeting isn’t scheduled for over another three months. The Ontario Ministry of Labour, WSIB, OACP, and related police associations which formed this “working group” should be ashamed of such glacial movement forward! It’s about time that both the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services take responsibility for this lack of progression demanding immediate and appropriate timelines to get these issues resolved! I also urge the government critics for these two Ministries to ensure that this is finally completed.

As a side note to the above meetings, I find it abhorrent that representatives such as myself or other interested officers afflicted with PTSD or family representatives are not permitted to even sit in within these closed meetings to ascertain the facts and viewpoints that are being presented nor are we permitted to make presentations to the “Working Group“. To date, I have been denied access to any meeting pertaining to the working group. Over the past two years, various police associations have also denied permission for me or a group of PTSD survivors or families to present at any of their Board meetings. This has included the OPPA, OPP-COA, POA and the OACP… each organization had everything under control and yet… officers still die! What about the victims’ and families’ viewpoints? Are handicapped persons not permitted to attend decision-making meetings for accessibility? Are the blind not permitted to attend regulatory decision-making meetings for sightless legislation? These secretive meetings do nothing to add credence to the competency of such a group other than to ensure that their own agendas are met. PTSD survivors and families deserve a say and nothing less!

On June 10, 2010, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution to collectively meet with other concerned “official“ parties to “explore issues” and “develop an appropriate diagnostic tool with respect to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. Later the OACP publicly stated that they are concerned about the “financial tsunami” PTSD claims will create for their respective police services. In almost two years, this assorted group of alleged professionals haven’t even defined a “Diagnostic Tool” let alone helped any police officer or family with PTSD. It is not to their financial benefit nor interests to hurry this process either!

Police associations within Ontario have raised concerns about the cost of accommodating officers who may be required to be off duty or return only to light duties due to PTSD. Most recently, the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards have presented an “Issue Paper“ outlining great financial implications regarding legislation that would create further costings for their communities if PTSD “Programs and Presumptive Legislation “are passed. Please don’t tell the grieving family today, Sir, that their loved one died because of a lack of assistance programs and leadership within Ontario created by financial arguing for over two years! Wars have been fought and successfully resolved in far less time than this investigation has taken! It casts an unfavourable light upon the importance placed on this matter of PTSD and mental illness.

Mr. Marin, I’m frustrated trying to answer officers’ concerns regarding a lack of self-support programs from policing services. I’m frustrated hearing about financial matters such as PTSD victims being unable to pay their family mortgages because WSIB paycheques cease prior to OPP pay cheques re-commencing. I’m frustrated hearing from families (spouses and children) contacting me for help because of a lack of confidential support programs that are not in place. Yes, I’m very frustrated because of so many government failures to date, that due to a lack of guidelines, leadership and financial handwringing have created a horrendous and deadly situation! I had to turn to the Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) program of the Canadian Armed Forces for help during my darkest days. I was lucky but now I should be concentrating to get myself well instead of having to aid those that the government has dramatically failed, but … I shall not give up!

I also take great exception to the public statement of a municipal police Inspector, who advised in a local newspaper pertaining to this most recent occurrence that, “The incident wasn’t a threat to public safety. There are no issues that should concern the public.“ I can’t believe a more compelling issue that needs to be presented directly to the public letting them know the extreme lack of support and programs for mental health issues within our police services. In this particular case, I’m urging the deceased family to demand a full, public inquest, hopefully and finally so that PTSD and mental health issues involving police personnel will be brought to the forefront once and for all. PTSD no longer belongs hidden in a dark closet to be feared by officers as a career ending diagnosis!

Citizens deserve to have a complete understanding of the extremely disheartening way police personnel are currently treated mentally, physically and financially due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as compared with members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Forces personnel receive adequate compensation, have the OSISS program in place for self and family support and protocols for diagnosis and treatment of Armed Forces personnel. Why are we reinventing the wheel instead of following such an example? Do we deserve anything less? I have received information that members of the Canadian Forces are currently prepared to assist with these protocols… why are we dallying?

One note of encouraging change was seen yesterday, Sir, at the funeral of this OPP officer. Although it was not deemed a police funeral, a senior lady came up to myself and two other OPP members walking into the church. Being one of the first to arrive, she said, “Thanks so much for coming and for not turning your backs on him” (the deceased officer). Her concern was palpable, worrying whether any officers would come to the funeral due to the circumstances of his death. I am extremely proud to say that the church was packed with dozens of officers in dress uniform from the OPP, and various municipal police. Members were also included from the OPP Association, First Nations and the RCMP to honour and give thanks to this dedicated officer and his family. Even OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis and his Deputies were in attendance providing a show of compassion and solidarity. Yes, at all levels it was clearly acknowledged that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a shameful affliction but rather just another tragic realism of policing which we all face. Slowly, attitudes are changing towards mental health and police work!

Mr. Marin, to date, your Special Ombudsman’s Response Team (S.O.R.T.) has done a tremendous and extremely compassionate task of interviewing and researching this matter. But enough is enough! It is time to hear from the Ombudsman! As you can probably detect, Mr. Marin, I too, am devastated at the loss of yet another fine officer.

Sincerely,

Bruce C. Kruger, M.B.
Detective Inspector (retired)
Ontario Provincial Police

84 Beaumont Drive,
Bracebridge, ON P1L 1X2

705-706-2834 Cell
705-645-5814 Home

We urge everyone to take a moment and write the Ontario Ombudsman, the Premier of Ontario and your local member of the Ontario Legislature to please… please take immediate action on creating legislation to recognize the seriousness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that immediate assistance and guidance be provided to police personnel and their families throughout Ontario.

Thank you

Their email addresses are:

Premier of Ontario
Premier Dalton McGuinty - dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Ombudsman of Ontario
Mr. Andre Marin - info@ombudsman.on.ca

http://badgeoflifecanada.com/2012/04/15 ... from-ptsd/
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Re: How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ P

Postby Thomas » Sun Oct 07, 2012 6:59 am

Police still not getting the help they need with PTSD

A shot rang out from a police officer’s gun this month leaving one man dead.

It even happened in the OPP’s Midland detachment, but the Special Investigations Unit has not been called in.

“Douglas William James (Doug) Marshall — (OPP Officer, Southern Georgian Bay Detachment) — Suddenly on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Midland at the age of 45. Doug, beloved husband of Rachael (nee Wheldon). Proud father of David & Sarah.”

There was no mention in the obituary of post-traumatic stress disorder, but the last line hinted “in lieu of flowers donations to the Canadian Mental Health Association.”
It’s so bloody tragic.

And another reminder police officers are not super human.

Sgt. Doug Marshall, a popular cop, a great husband and dad, a long-time public servant and community volunteer, took out his own gun and ended his life in the Hwy. 12 OPP detachment.

The unit was shut down until last Monday and officers and residents are in a state of both grief and shock.

But is there anything going to be done about the kind of pressure police officers are under?

This question is being raised by former OPP Det.-Insp. Bruce Kruger, himself a victim of PTSD, who had called out for action long before.

“It has been more than 840 days since I wrote my first letter to Ombudsman Andre Marin,” he said.

In an April 11 letter Kruger wrote Marin: “Once again I have attended the funeral of another police officer who proudly served Ontario. This member had contacted me for help in 2011 regarding his post-traumatic stress disorder. At that time I assisted him as best I felt possible, urging him to seek treatment and outlining the various options such as Homewood’s PTSD program. Sadly, this OPP officer within weeks of being released from the Homewood took his own life with his service revolver within the detachment were he once so eagerly and with great respect performed his duties as an OPP supervisor.”

In an earlier Kruger letter to the ombudsman, he asked: “Do more officers needlessly suffer or commit suicide due to inaction by all parties?”

Linda Williamson, spokesman for the ombudsman, assures the report is being “written” and will come this summer. Perhaps a coroner’s inquest will be called.

On Wednesday morning, Marin responded to this column on Twitter: "This case is one of our top priorities … Police officers suffering from stress injury need our support.
Do they have it? What can b (sic) done to help them? Answers: summer 2012 … Police officers serve and protect us. When they get injured in the line of work, we need to serve and protect them."

Meanwhile, if Kruger, now retired to Bracebridge, seems inpatient it may be because he has his own experience — as illustrated in a 2010 award-winning series in the Toronto Sun by Mark Bonokoski.

“In 1977 I shot and killed an escaped prisoner about to shoot a trapped OPP officer with a sawed-off shotgun,” Kruger explains. In 1978 “I had my boat burnt by a drug dealer, found a fellow officer shot in the head frozen in a snowbank” and in 1980 “was involved in the double drowning of a young boy and his father.”

In 1981, he was run down by a car driven by an escaping Peeping Tom and has endured five operations since.

But there was another Bono column from 2009 that is also a beacon for the reality of cops suffering from PTSD. It’s the story of the 2005 suicide of 57-year-old copper Eddie Adamson, the son of a former police chief, in a motel room where he was found surrounded with notebooks and clippings from the incident that had been bothering him for 25 years.

As Bonokoski wrote so well: “While it was definitely a gun that ended Eddie Adamson’s nightmares, what loaded that bullet into its chamber was the cumulative impact of what happened on March 14, 1980 — the day Toronto Const. Michael Sweet, a father of three young girls, was shot, held hostage, and allowed to bleed to death by the notorious Munro brothers during a botched robbery … He wanted to storm the restaurant, knowing that Sweet had been shot and was in critical condition. But he was ordered to stand down. And obeying that order — after arduously arguing against it — haunted him to his grave.”

Kruger understands a copper’s pain. He doesn’t understand why such pain is not dealt with more urgently since those who die with PTSD were essentially killed in the line of duty as much as if someone else had pulled the trigger.

http://m.torontosun.com/2012/04/24/poli ... -they-need
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Re: How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ P

Postby Thomas » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:40 am

OPP Commissioner says Star series left ‘false perception’ that OPP is silent on stress disorders

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis says the Toronto Star series on post-traumatic stress disorder among police officers “did a good job of raising public awareness” on the issue.

However, the weekend stories painted “a false perception” that the OPP is doing nothing, he charged in an interview Tuesday.

The commissioner said the stories didn’t tell any success stories about what the OPP is doing.

Lewis acknowledged that he cannot comment specifically on the report that is soon to be released by the Ontario Ombudsman’s office detailing the complaints from dozens of officers about how the OPP deals with operational stress injuries.

“I know we’re doing tons,” Lewis said. “We certainly didn’t do a lot in the ’70s and ’80s, but we’ve come a long way in 35 years. I have never been shy about speaking out about the fact we have to look after people. We need to do all we can to support (PTSD programs), and if there’s more can do, we need to do it.”

The commissioner said the OPP is second to none among police services in Canada in how progressive it is in dealing with PTSD.

Lewis said the OPP has critical incident response teams, programs in place and a full-time staff psychologist to deal with problems of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lewis, who joined the OPP in 1978, admitted that if there is a culture of fear in coming forward, “we need to fix that.”

Ontario’s labour minister, meanwhile, hailed the Star stories as helping to advance to discussion on PTSD.

In an emailed statement to the Star, Linda Jeffrey said: “The stories in the Star over the weekend reinforced the need for education when it comes to PTSD.”

She said that her focus when it comes to any workplace injury or illness is prevention. Her ministry recently launched a roundtable that will bring together high-risk sectors for a conversation about PTSD.

New Democratic Party MPP Cheri DiNovo is trying to spearhead improvements for front-line workers at Queen’s Park.

The MPP for High Park-Parkdale will hold a news conference Wednesday to announce support for Bill 129, which she tabled last week to fast-track health benefits for workers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder on the job.

Representatives from police, fire and paramedics services will be on hand for the news conference.

Asked if she would endorse the bill, the labour minister said she is willing “to look at any ideas that will make Ontario workers safer and healthier and we look forward to the debate on this Bill.”

“However, I believe we need to place a larger focus on education and prevention,” she said.

The Star series elicited a large response via email, phone calls and Twitter.

Charles Sleep was visiting his parents in Toronto this weekend when the family read the series.

Sleep’s father worked with the OPP for three decades before leaving due to stress in the late ’80s. He was never diagnosed with PTSD, but had the hallmarks of the disorder, including fits of rage.

“I thought I inherited a bad nature,” Sleep said in an interview. “It wasn’t so much a part of him as it was a part of the job. And your series helped me accept my father and my terrible childhood.”

Gary Rubie, a Peel police officer, suffered from PTSD after years on the job, which involved everything from a violent knife attack to investigating child pornography.

Like the officers in the series, Rubie fought the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to receive compensation and treatment for the disorder.

He had to write a report, 43 pages long, about the effect of trauma from policing.

After sending the document in, he drank, then fashioned a yellow rope into a noose. He got into his car and drove with the noose around his neck, “looking for the perfect tree.”

He couldn’t find it, so he drove to Port Elgin with the intention of driving off the pier into Lake Huron. But he was caught by police and arrested.

He’s been sober for two years, but continues to fight the WSIB.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article ... -disorders
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Re: How the Ontario Provincial Police deals with officers’ P

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 20, 2012 5:34 am

Kruger becomes activist for PTSD victim's rights

BRACEBRIDGE - Bracebridge’s town crier is a model citizen. Bruce Kruger retired from an illustrious 29-year career with the OPP in 1999 and owns the Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s restaurants in Bracebridge and Huntsville.

His is a story of the kind of success hard work and dedication can bring. He’s made all the right moves and earned all the rewards. He has been married to his wife Lynn for 43 years and together they have four children and 11 grandchildren.

A prominent businessman, he’s one of the town’s elite — prosperous and respected.

But until recently he had a terrible secret. Kruger suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); he lives with anxiety, depression, guilt and rage related to his work with the OPP. He has suffered for decades with chronic nightmares, angry outbursts and crying episodes. It led to alcohol abuse.

“There’s sometimes you just can’t drink enough,” Kruger told a Toronto Star reporter about the days before he got it under control. He called himself “the great pretender.”

The trauma of his work as a police officer has left him damaged and he says the force that he gave 29 years to did not give him the support needed to face and conquer his mental illness.

In his interview with the Star Kruger traced back his PTSD to the violence he experienced as an OPP officer, which includes:

Shooting and killing a prison escapee who was pointing a shotgun at his partner in 1977.

Finding slain OPP officer Rick Verdecchia frozen solid in a snowbank with three bullet holes between his eyes in 1978. Kruger stayed with the body to protect the scene for several hours.

Coming upon the bodies of a father and his six-year-old son who had drowned in 1978, and having to row the bodies back to the shore of Healey Lake.

Before retiring in 1999, at the age of 51, he had witnessed countless other horrors, including gruesome accidents, sexual assaults and suicides, some involving children.

Kruger launched a complaint with Ontario Ombudsman André Marin and started a campaign to encourage other officers to talk openly of their own PTSD and their difficulties getting help through the force or through workman’s compensation.

“It appears finances come before human suffering,” he said of his many years spent trying to getting adequate compensation for his disorder in a macho police culture of shame, secrecy and denial.
When he put in a complaint to the Ontario ombudsman two and a half years ago, he knew he needed backup.

“I had to show that this was a system problem, not just a Kruger problem,” he said.

He asked various police associations for assistance in contacting their members across Ontario through a letter he penned, calling for other officers to come forward with their PTSD concerns.
“To no avail,” he said.

Kruger said the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, of which he is a lifetime member, refused to distribute his letter and turned down his request to appear before their board to discuss the problem of PTSD in their ranks.

“Everybody said, ‘Oh we’ve got everything under control’ when in fact it’s still not under control.”

Finally the OPP veterans association published his letter among their membership.

“That’s how the message got out, very slowly and with huge resistance.”

Kruger said operational stress injuries are a real problem, not just with the OPP but with police services across Ontario. During his battle to receive support he said many groups failed to take adequate action. He said the Ministry of Labour has done a “horrific job through workman’s comp — to properly and adequately address these issues.”

It’s been a long time coming, but as of January he has received assistance to travel to Toronto two days a week to get treatment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He’s takes two medications, an anti-depressant and a blood-pressure drug that helps to stop nightmares.

“It’s been a long struggle,” he said. “I started having troubles as long ago as 1984.”

But Kruger also told the Star that the seeds of his PTSD were planted in 1977, when he shot and killed James McGrath, a career criminal and escapee from Joyceville penitentiary.

McGrath, 52, had broken into the Orillia residence of MPP Gordon Smith. Smith’s wife, Jean, returned home to find McGrath looting their home.

Armed with a shotgun, McGrath stole cash and jewelry, then fled in the family Volkswagen.

He led police on a chase that ended when McGrath slammed into a tree. McGrath jumped out of the car and pointed the loaded shotgun at Kruger’s partner.

When McGrath kept advancing, Kruger shot and killed him.

He was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

Kruger says he was traumatized again in 1991 when he learned that someone had been making freedom of information requests into the shooting. That person tracked down Kruger a year later.

He turned out to be McGrath’s son, and Kruger was certain the son wanted to settle the score with the man who killed his father.

Fearing for his safety and his family’s, Kruger says, he asked the OPP for assistance but was told to deal with it himself.

When the son came to his office on Jan. 16, 1992, Kruger was so terrified that he sat with his gun in his open drawer, and a plainclothes officer posed as a secretary nearby with his gun by the typewriter.

As it turned out, the son just wanted to find out where his father was buried and if the man had any redeeming qualities. They shook hands and the son left.

“Once I got out of the OPP I was hoping things would change and the nightmares would go away — my problem with depression and isolation would finally correct itself — but it didn’t.”

He finally reached out for help when a compressor was stolen from his Huntsville restaurant. He went to the Huntsville OPP detachment to report the crime and was informed that he couldn’t do so at the detachment but would have to return to his restaurant and report the crime from there. This bureaucracy frustrated him.

“At the same time there was a picture of Ron Verdecchia above her (the OPP clerk’s) head. It devastated me. I broke down. I couldn’t handle it.”

When an officer came out to the restaurant to take the report, Kruger broke down again.

“He said, ‘Sir, does this air compressor mean that much to you?’ He was the first person, outside of family, I told that I suffered from PTSD.”

Around the same time Kruger’s friend, former Toronto police sergeant Eddie Adamson, committed suicide.

According to the Star report Adamson, a Bracebridge resident, blamed himself for the 1980 death of Const. Michael Sweet during a botched robbery at a Toronto nightclub.

Kruger and Adamson would meet for coffee.

“He and I used to sit and shoot the bull,” Kruger says. “We would discuss our horrific difficulties, from the nightmares to the drinking.”

One day in 2005, when Adamson decided he couldn’t handle the pain anymore, he took a room at the Sundial Inn in Orillia. He also took his notebooks and correspondence related to the shooting of Sweet.
He drank while poring over the notebooks. Then he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

The family successfully fought the WSIB to get Adamson’s cause of death changed from suicide to PTSD. They then lobbied to get Adamson’s name on the Toronto Police Wall of Honour, something they have yet to achieve.

Adamson’s suicide got Kruger thinking that things had to change. So he wrote to the ombudsman’s office about PTSD among police officers.

“I had calls all across Canada,” Kruger told The Star. “Several came out of the States, from retirees. And the stories went on and on and on. I get an average of one to two calls per week in regards to people suffering from post-traumatic stress on the job, and they don’t have anywhere they feel safe to turn to. And there are still no mechanisms in place to guarantee their confidentiality to the satisfaction they’re looking for.

“I was not going to let this go. I was determined that I wanted nobody ever to go through the hell that I and my family have. I don’t want the next generations to go through this either.”
It was then that Kruger decided to get help.

It wasn’t until 2002, three years after he’d retired, that Kruger was finally diagnosed with PTSD, by a civilian psychiatrist.

In his complaint to the ombudsman, Kruger noted that he had been turned down by the OPP employee assistance program, which is available only three months after retirement, so he turned to the Canadian Forces website.

As a result, he received “unbelievable support and immediate contacts from several sources,” he told the ombudsman.

He was admitted to Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, spending February and March 2010 there. He paid for that himself.

In the time he was there, Kruger says, no member of the OPP visited him or any other OPP officer.

“If an officer was bleeding to death, would he have to wait to help for this length of time?” asks Kruger. “PTSD is just another method to die, although a little slower.”

He told the Star he’s out of pocket $25,000 but hasn’t been reimbursed yet, and doesn’t know how much he’ll receive.

At this point in his battle, Kruger says he thinks there has been a positive change in the way the OPP treats officers with PTSD.

“I truly believe that Commissioner Lewis and the OPP Association and the Commissioned Officers Association have all had a tremendous change of attitude and actions since I put in this complaint two and a half years ago,” he said. “These people are finally getting the picture and are going forward … unfortunately it’s taken myself and 29 other officers to get the message across.”

He said the Ontario Chiefs of Police claimed they would be a leader in reform, “and they have done nothing but drag their feet in all this time … they have never so much as come up with a definition of a diagnostic tool for PTSD specifically in police officers.”

With files from The Toronto Star

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