Two Toronto police officers have committed suicide over the past four months, and a former long-time sergeant says more will die because the Toronto Police Service (TPS) is “dramatically” failing officers who come forward with mental health issues.
In the first of a three-part CityNews investigation, former Toronto police Sgt. Simon Fraser tells The Inside Story’s Avery Haines he became a virtual outcast after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, eventually quitting the force after 28 years on the job.
“If somebody doesn’t say something more police officers are going to keep dying,” Fraser said.
“Two police officers have hung themselves in less than five months. Nobody knows.”
Fraser was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012 after responding to a series of traumatic calls. He underwent treatment and was cleared to return to full duties by his family doctor.
When he returned to work, he says he approached his staff sergeant so he could submit an Injured on Duty form for PTSD.
Fraser says it was the beginning of the end of his long, successful career.
According to Fraser, the staff sergeant said: “Are you sure you want to do that Simon? There’s going to be ramifications, man.”
Fraser said those ramifications were not only humiliating and degrading, but unhinged his recovery.
“I got transferred off of my platoon and assigned to an empty desk in the basement of my station, no computer, no phone, no duties. And my desk was right at the bottom of the stairs, where every constable has to pass that door,” the heavily-muscled 51 year old explained.
Before coming forward with his diagnosis, Fraser says he was a “high-level” sergeant who ran city-wide squads and task forces.
Now he was alone in a basement — a virtual outcast among the people he once considered family.
“I’m proud to wear this uniform…and now I’m realizing I have an issue that’s been caused by the horrible things I’ve had to see and do. You guys are abandoning me? And not just abandoning me and washing your hands with me, you are making me worse?”
“I don’t think the Toronto Police Service give a damn about officers with PTSD,” he boldly states.
Police Chief Bill Blair disagrees.
Blair says the force has taken significant steps in recent years to address mental health concerns among officers, including hiring two full-time psychologists.
“We’ve done a lot of work within the Toronto Police Service on the psychological well-being of our members,” Blair told Haines. “We are very concerned and have been reaching out to our people and making sure they are aware of the services available to them.”
Blair stresses that the TPS has 8,000 members and that mental health “can touch any individual.”
“If you are experiencing mental health issues…we are here to help,” he insists.
But Fraser insists the force has failed him and the officers who took their own lives.
He’s filed a labour grievance and Human Rights Commission complaint saying he was pressured to keep his PTSD diagnosis hidden, and was assigned to humiliating and degrading work conditions. He also claims he was “harassed, berated and disciplined” and alleges his confidential medical condition was disclosed to other officers.
The TPS has an “institutional pattern of bias and discrimination against those with PTSD,” his complaints read.
“Guys are afraid to speak,” he maintains. “They’ve seen what happens to other people (who come forward).
“We are big tough coppers, we are guys who work out. We carry guns. We help people, we protect people. Who is protecting us?”
“It’s a ticking time bomb…”