A look at suicide within the O.P.P

Citizen World News . March 12 2019

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In a recent episode of the fifth estate on CBC that aired March 10th the topic being discussed was the Ontario Provincial Police and suicide. O.P.P officers have died by suicide than in the line of duty over the last 30 years. Not to mention 3 suicide occuring in a span of 3 weeks in the summer of 2018. The fifth estate exposes a culture within the O.P.P that includes harassment, bullying and intimidation. The main concern from this is are the O.P.P doing enough to protect the well-being of its own officers or are they just turning a blind eye.

One of the three O.P.P officers that passed away the summer of 2018 was a man by the name of Joshua De Bock. The O.P.P member was promoted from a front of line officer to the force’s forensic identification unit. Within the second day of the new job he had to deal with 2 suicides and an autopsy. Working with those types of situations he had no one to turn or talk to professionally in the workplace.

Him and his wife Loan lived in a small town northeast of Kitchener called Elmira and decided to add another family member and give their 5 year old daughter a sibling. As well as Josh buying himself a brand new year. The house was full laughter and happiness.

One late afternoon in August 2018 Loan came home when she noticed their family dog cowering under the porch. She thought it was strange but assumed Josh was working outside in the garden like he would usually do. But he wasn’t. She started to get worried. Josh had been at the family doctors earlier in the day to talk about his issue with lack of sleep lately. But he wasn’t in the bedroom either.

Her worry started to gradually grow more and more. There had already been two members of the Ontario Provincial Police that had died by suicide that summer. The police force was under major pressure to answer questions about how members can get the proper support they need like Josh. Where dealing with death wasn’t something rare.

His behavior had been strange lately and was having nightmares which led him to seeing a counsellor. Unfortunately his appointment wasn’t until the following week. In Loans mind she was thinking there’s no way he would leave behind her and their 5 year old daughter and that is when she found him in the garage. The third suicide in three weeks for O.P.P. She told the Fifth Estate “I wasn’t expecting what i say. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Ever since her husband Josh’s death she does not feel part of the O.P.P family anymore. It’s been crickets from them. She has been asking questions to them about what pushed her husband to do what he did but she has been waiting for answers since September.

In her interview she spoke about her concerns about how O.P.P treated her husband. She stated “ i 100% believe he died because of his work, and because of how he was treated there and neglected,” as tears are running down her face. “ bottom line, they weren’t taking care of their officers.” She calls it a suck it up culture where they are scared to come forward with how they are feeling because they will be categorized and looked down upon.

Lots of past and present O.P.P officers have come forward to the fifth estate to talk about their collection of experiences. Their stories are now part of an investigation that is exposing one of the top police organizations that failed to act on tons of recommendations to prevent suicide amongst its members on the force and off the force. As well as the force being known for their bullying and harassment as well as degrading.

PTSD has played a major role in this where roughly 12 current and retired O.P.P officers were interviewed and officially diagnosed with P.T.S.D.

Not only are the members not getting the support they need professionally, they are being tormented and targeted by people in their work force. People they look up to and are suppose to trust.

As psychologist Laura Sigurdson says “ the O.P.P is a broken family.” the lack of support and pride and negative comments she hears about the force happens way too often. She states “ when people do come forward, not only are they not supported, but there are obstacles put in the way…they are then targeted unfortunately for speaking up.”

Acting OPP Commissioner Gary Couture disagrees with what everyone else has to say about the force. In his interview with the Fifth Estate he states that there isn’t a culture of bullying and harassment in the O.P.P. His reply to the “broken family” was “like at any other workplace, there’s some that are left in an unfortunate circumstance. That’s on us, but are we a broken family? Absolutely not. I feel very strongly about that.”

If you missed the episode go to https://www.cbc.ca/fifth/.