OPP created safety risk for employees by mishandling mentall

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OPP created safety risk for employees by mishandling mentall

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:20 pm

OPP created safety risk for employees by mishandling mentally ill constable, arbitrator finds

Arbitrator orders the OPP to develop a system, following multiple grievance cases

An arbitrator is ordering the Ontario Provincial Police to develop a protocol addressing disability management issues by the end of December and pay out more than $40,000 in damages, after four officers filed grievances in connection with the re-integration of a mentally ill colleague in their workplace.

The cases revolve around a Barrie traffic enforcement officer, known as Const. X in the documents, who took time away from the service following multiple suicide attempts.

The OPP "failed to follow its Disability Accommodation Policy as well as its Occupational Health and Safety Policy," and these failures contributed to further harm to X, including a further suicide attempt, and created a safety risk for her colleagues, arbitrator Randi H. Abramsky wrote in her decision.

"The OPP turned a 'blind eye' to the information it had and allowed the situation to deteriorate," Abramsky wrote.

The decision comes two weeks after the OPP announced an internal review of member suicides and attempted suicides after three officers recently took their own lives.

Constable X

Const. X worked with the Barrie Enforcement Team (BET) Highway Safety Division, and the documents state her mental health issues became apparent in late 2011.

She began to have disagreements with her colleagues and in multiple incidents, Abramsky wrote, X felt her colleagues were "against her." Eventually, her fellow officers became aware of this feeling, which in part, caused them to feel unsafe.

Over the course of a year, X made attempted suicide multiple times, and she was diagnosed with recurrent Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Before being re-integrated back into the workplace, the OPP insisted X complete an independent medical examination (IME) to ensure she was fit for her duties.

A doctor compiled a detailed 31-page report but unfortunately, Abramsky wrote, the OPP "ignored all of his recommendations."

'Imperative' to create safety plan, arbitrator says

The report said it was "imperative" a safety plan be put in place for X's return to work in 2014 so colleagues, supervisors and treatment providers knew how to respond should a concern arise.

The OPP created a plan for X's first four months back but following that, no plan was put in place for when she transitioned back to her full duties, including the return of her firearm.

Const. X did complete weapon recertification training, but started crying multiple times and injured herself. Still, she passed.

Her immediate supervisor testified "that he was given no guidance or training from management or Human Resources regarding X's return ... other than being instructed to 'make it work.'"

While on duty in 2014, X had a disagreement with a colleague who questioned how she conducted an alleged impaired driving call, and through a hearing, the service later found X "was neglectful in her duty."

The incident caused some of X's colleagues to voice concerns to their superiors, fearing for their own safety. Their emails went unanswered for at least three months.

After further "suicidal ideations," X's doctor recommended she eventually be transferred.

"I was put on administrative duties, and my firearm was taken from me. This made me extremely upset and depressed," Const. X's statement reads.

In August 2015, X went to the Barrie office intending to kill herself. According to Abramsky's written decision, X said she meant to draw attention to the mistreatment she felt subjected to at work.

She intended to use her firearm, the decision reads, but it was not in her locker. She overdosed on Phenobarbital instead.

Officer grievances

A colleague found X, and she survived the suicide.

Abramsky wrote the testimony of the four officers who filed grievances "confirmed that they felt silenced, and that their concerns for both X's health and safety, as well as their own, were not being heard."

In her decision, Abramsky focused on the OPP's failure to create a safety plan, as instructed, as one of the main reasons why all of the above events occurred following X's return to work.

"In the absence of the safety plan, X's co-workers and supervisors were left without direction in regard to how to proceed if concerns arose," she wrote.

Safety protocol

Abramsky ordered the OPP pay $5,000 in damages to each of the four officers who filed grievances, as well as $5,000 to three other members of the Barrie team and $7,500 to X's supervisor for violating their right to a healthy and safe workplace.

She also called on the OPP, in coordination with other stakeholders, to create a protocol addressing disability management issues, including mental illness in the workplace.

If they cannot agree to a protocol within 120 days, Abramsky will be consulted.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) represented the officers. The OPPA president, Rob Jamieson, said discussions have begun and he's eager to fix the deficiencies noted in the decision.

"It's not about blame, but we have to learn from situations like this. Lessons are repeated until they're learned," he said.

"I just want to take this third party report ... and make sure that if something like this happens again, that we can have the proper systems and protocols in place to adequately support those members."

OPP response

"The OPP accepts the court's decision and will comply," OPP media relations coordinator Sgt. Carolle Dionne said in an email.

She also referenced the Commissioner's Pledge made last month, when the OPP introduced their internal review into officer suicides and attempted suicides.

Part of the review will include examining cases such as X's in order to find out what barriers prevent members from seeking assistance.

The appeal also reminds all officers to seek support if they're struggling.

"If there's resistance to anything along those lines, please let the OPP Association know," Jamieson added.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ ... -1.4823722
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Senior OPP management blasted for bungled handling of suicid

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:25 pm

Christie Blatchford: Senior OPP management blasted for bungled handling of suicidal officer

The arbitrator wrote ‘the OPP turned a “blind eye” to the information it had and allowed the situation to deteriorate until X attempted suicide’ at work

The Ontario Provincial Police so botched the return to work of a mentally ill, frequently suicidal officer that seven of her colleagues and a supervisor were potentially placed in jeopardy — and even the public.

The 77-page decision from arbitrator Randi Abramsky, the result of both the OPP Association and individual officers filing labour grievances, was issued Aug. 31.

The female officer, identified only as X, first fell ill a few years after the breakup of her 25-year marriage.

She was subsequently diagnosed with recurrent major depressive disorder and characteristics of borderline personality disorder.

While the decision is stinging in its criticism of senior OPP management, including the force’s human resources professionals, and an unnamed psychiatrist “who appears to have repeatedly authorized X’s return to work when he should not have done so,” it is kind to the front-line officers who struggled in vain for months to get help for the woman and guidance for themselves.

As Abramsky put it once, “The OPP turned a ‘blind eye’ to the information it had and allowed the situation to deteriorate until X attempted suicide on Aug. 2, 2015.”

Early that morning, X entered the Barrie, Ont., Enforcement Team office where she had returned to full-time work with the specialized traffic enforcement unit about six months earlier.

“She was in crisis,” Abramsky said in her report, “and felt that she would never be well again. She ‘intended to die by suicide in the office to draw attention to the mistreatment I felt that I had been subjected to at work.’ She ‘intended to use my firearm but it was not in my locker.’

“Instead, she overdosed on Phenobarbital,” a sleep aid and sedative.

(Twelve days earlier, alarmed by her deteriorating condition, her sergeant had ordered her gun removed from the firearm locker.)

She was found unconscious on the floor and rushed to hospital.

After being placed in a medically induced coma, the woman remained in hospital a month and survived. She gave evidence at the labour hearing.

The seven constables, only three of whom filed formal grievances, were awarded $5,000 each, while the sergeant was awarded $7,500, a recognition of how hard he had tried to get the force to pay attention.

Four months before X attempted suicide, there was a telling incident.

It was March 21, 2015.

In that case, back on the job, X improperly arrested a woman for driving under the influence, called the local children’s aid about her two children and then filed a complaint when other officers detected no sign of alcohol or impairment in the driver.

A breathalyser, performed at X’s insistence, showed the driver had not had a drop to drink, and she was released without charges.

But X filed a complaint against the officer who had disagreed most with the arrest, alleging unprofessional conduct.

He was ultimately “completely exonerated” by the investigation, but not before a job offer from another force mysteriously disappeared.

Though X was once considered a fine officer, she had been off the rails for years.

Originally placed on light duties in January of 2012 because of a knee problem, she soon spiralled out of control.

That February, she attempted suicide for the first time. It was in hospital that she was referred to Dr. Z, as the psychiatrist was identified.

About that time, she also developed “personal feelings” for a former sergeant, called Sgt. Y, regularly emailing him such that he ultimately filed a harassment complaint against her.

After an independent medical examination, she was pronounced unfit to return to work, and a month later, again attempted suicide.

In January of 2013, she was admitted to Homewood Health Centre for an eight-week program. On what was to be her last day there, she attempted suicide a third time.

Throughout that spring, she continued to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts; on at least three occasions, the OPP were called to her home.

Yet by June, Dr. Z was saying she was well enough to go back to work in a graduated fashion.

Before the OPP even got his note, X had called a crisis line about suicidal thoughts.

An inspector wrote Dr. Z, saying “We continue to be concerned about Ms. X’s well-being … we also have the responsibility to ensure the safety of other officers … as well as members of the public.”

Dr. Z responded the next month, dismissing the June suicidal thoughts as insignificant but adding she should “avoid firearms for now.”

The inspector pointed out, “as you can appreciate, she works in a police setting where other members are wearing their full use-of-force equipment and firearms therefore are accessible.”

Dr. Z’s astonishing suggestion? “…If she could be placed somewhere at the OPP where there are as few firearms around her as possible then that would be safest.”

In September, Dr. Z wrote a third letter, again stating she was fit. Within a week, X was yet again admitted to hospital after attempts at suicide.

The OPP was unpersuaded and sent X for another independent assessment.

This time, she was seen by Dr. Maurice Siu, who wrote what Abramsky called one of the most thorough such reports she’d ever read.

He cleared her for work, but recommended she see a psychologist regularly for the next year, that her doctors be allowed to communicate, and that the OPP put in a place a safety plan that allowed other officers and supervisors, if they saw signs of trouble, to contact her doctors.

But the OPP insurer approved only eight sessions with a psychologist, and there was no safety plan.

X was soon once again sending inappropriate emails to Sgt. Y, while her new sergeant begged his bosses for direction.

It consisted of “X coming back … Make it work.”

Her colleagues were worried for her, and for themselves.

The story told in the decision illustrates the difficulty of re-integrating a seriously mentally ill employee back into a “workplace” where weapons are everywhere.

Abramsky recognized that, but said, “X’s rights do not completely override the rights of her colleagues.”

She found that the OPP violated several of its own policies and ordered a number of “public interest” type remedies because there “can be no doubt that there will be future cases” and “lessons need to be learned from what happened to X” and the Barrie Enforcement Team.

The decision does not say whether X is back at work.

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/christ ... al-officer
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