Ontario's chief coroner launches review of police suicides

Suicides among OPP officers are higher than on-duty deaths. Moreover, OPP does not formally keep track of the number of officers that have taken their own lives.

Ontario's chief coroner launches review of police suicides

Postby Thomas » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:18 pm

Ontario's chief coroner launches review of police suicides in 2018

TORONTO — Ontario’s chief coroner has launched a review of police suicides that took place in the province last year after noticing a spike in officers killing themselves.

Eight active officers and one recently retired officer died by suicide across the province in 2018, Dr. Dirk Huyer said Friday, noting that no more than five officers had taken their own lives in any one of the previous five years.

Huyer said he was in the process of putting together an expert panel to review last year’s deaths, with the goal of releasing a report along with recommendations to the public by early summer.

“If we’re going to do something to help people and help reduce further deaths, we want to do it as quickly, efficiently and effectively as we can,” he said in an interview.

The families of all nine officers who took their own lives, along with their police forces, are supportive of the review, he said.

The issue of officer suicides was thrust into the spotlight last summer after three members of the Ontario Provincial Police killed themselves in a short period of time.

Huyer said a number of officers, associations representing them, police executives and coroners in the province were discussing the issue and some reached out to him.

“There were a number of red flags,” he said.

In an effort to analyze the matter further, Huyer said he then drilled down into data held by his own office. He discovered there hadn’t been more than five officers who killed themselves in any one year in the five years before 2018.

Huyer said he decided to have the 2018 officer suicides examined through an expert review rather than through a coroner’s inquest since the panel approach had several advantages.

An expert review can be completed much faster than an inquest, can have a broader scope and will be carried out by those who already have a deep understanding of policing and mental health, he explained.

“The panel will be informed about the culture, the issues, the challenges and can work together to give the best recommendations arising from their analysis of the cases,” Huyer said.

A psychiatrist and a human resources expert on wellness with a police force will be among those on the panel, he said, adding that work has already begun with the coroner’s office obtaining the officers’ police service employee records and medical records.

“(The review) is to bring a data-driven approach to understand if there are issues — and if there are issues, are the mental strategies in place and are they effective?” Huyer said. “Nobody has shown any resistance to this at all. They want to learn from this to help their officers.”

The chief of Waterloo regional police, where one officer died by suicide last year, said he had spoken to Huyer and supported the review.

“We fully support and welcome a review that will help determine how mental health support can be better provided to first responders,” said Chief Bryan Larkin in a statement. “We look forward to the review’s findings and we are hopeful this review will result in greater awareness and more discussion concerning mental illness.”

The OPP have launched an internal review after the spate of suicides among its ranks last summer.

https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/c ... es-in-2018

https://www.cp24.com/news/chief-coroner ... -1.4240332

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Nine police officer suicides prompt review from Ontario's ch

Postby Thomas » Sun Jan 06, 2019 5:21 pm

Nine police officer suicides prompt review from Ontario's chief coroner

Deaths are 'a significant number, greater than we see typically,' chief coroner Dirk Huyer says

Nine police officer suicides in 2018 have prompted Ontario's chief coroner to launch a review to determine what's contributing to the unusually high number.

Chief Coroner for Ontario, Dirk Huyer, says some of the officer deaths were reported on and made public, but he heard from various sources there had been more.

"When we looked deeper into the information that we have within our own database, we recognized that there were nine officers who had taken their lives during the year of 2018 and that's a significant number — greater than we see typically," he said in an interview Friday morning.

"That prompted me to wonder, are there issues, patterns, themes, trends that society, those within the area of police service, [are] not identifying or recognizing that would provide potential intervention points or prevention points?"

Huyer said he's working on finding people to make up a diverse expert panel to answer those questions.

The panel could include a psychiatrist who understands mental wellness and diagnoses of mental health disorders, a psychologist who intersects with intersects with police service and supporting wellness in the service or a human resources lead, he said.

Huyer said the goal is to "have a panel that allows the ability to understand the concerns that arise … and then provide the knowledge and informed recommendations to try to reduce future deaths."

Huyer is currently not naming the officers or where they worked.

In August, the Ontario Provincial Police announced it was launching a review into suicide cases and attempts over the past five years. Huyer is assisting in that review.

Officer dies on 401 in Cambridge

In Waterloo region, a recently retired officer died in August after he was hit by a transport truck on Highway 401 in Cambridge. Police said at the time he was walking on the highway when hit.

Just months earlier, the London Police Service had charged that officer with communicating with a person for the purpose of obtaining sexual services.

The Office of the Chief Coroner confirmed the review will include suicides among current officers and recently retired officers.

Waterloo Regional Police Service Chief Chief Bryan Larkin said he has been in contact with Huyer about the expert panel that's being formed.

"The Waterloo Regional Police Service continues to make mental health and wellness a priority for our members as well as for the community," Larkin said in an emailed statement.

"We fully support and welcome a review that will help determine how mental health support can be better provided to first responders. We look forward to the review's findings, and we are hopeful this review will result in greater awareness and more discussion concerning mental illness."

Panel to meet this spring

Huyer said they will evaluate each of the nine deaths, looking at medical records and their police record.

"Then we're going to analyze those and review those in a systematic way so that we look for commonalities across the nine cases to see whether there are issues that seem to run across, or particular issues that occur within each of the different officers," he said, calling the review more of a systemic look at the cases rather than the individual circumstances.

Work is currently underway. The families and police services where the officers worked have been notified, the records have been requested as well as the case review work has started.

Huyer would like to see the case review done in time for the expert panel to meet in the spring, with a report coming forward in the summer.

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