Call to Action –– Canada-Wide Operational Stress Injuries Survey

Call to Action –– Canada-Wide Operational Stress Injuries Survey
S’il vous plaît, consultez la version française de ce courriel ci-dessous.

Hello All,

A week ago the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) released the first national survey to assess operational stress injury (OSI) symptoms for Canadian First Responders and other Public Safety Personnel.

Participating in this anonymous survey will help provide critically-needed information about OSI symptom prevalence (e.g., symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, panic) for Canadian First Responders and other Public Safety Personnel. The survey can also assess interactions between stress, symptoms, your family, and your workplace.
Numbers matter. We currently don’t have reliable data on OSI symptom prevalence rates. We are counting on you to participate and encourage others to participate because doing so provides evidence for engaging strategies and allocating resources to support mental health for all Canadian First Responders and other Public Safety Personnel.
Whatever your mental health, your responses will help everyone in need.

Please distribute this e-mail and the attached document to all of your currently serving personnel and encourage them to distribute ensuring all personnel are invited. A subsequent survey for retired members is being planned for distribution as soon as possible.

For more information on the survey and on CIPSRT, please refer to the attached document or visit http://www.justiceandsafety.ca

A formal invitation to participate in the survey is attached. We sincerely hope you choose to participate, therein supporting yourself and your peers, and allowing us to advocate for appropriate resources to support public safety mental health.

Thank you all again for your ongoing help, support, and patience through this process.

If you have questions or comments please contact Steve Palmer, University of Regina ssteve.palmer@uregina.ca or 306-535-8365

Additional information regarding CIPSRT is available on the website http://www.justiceandsafety.ca

Appel à l’action –Sondage à travers le Canada sur les traumatismes liés au stress opérationnel

Bonjour,

Il y a une semaine L’Institut canadien de recherche et de traitement en sécurité publique (ICRTSP) lancer le premier sondage national pour évaluer les symptômes de traumatismes liés au stress opérationnel (TSO) chez les premiers répondants et les autres membres du personnel de la sécurité publique.

Votre participation à ce sondage anonyme contribuera à fournir des informations importantes sur la prévalence des TSO (symptômes de stress post-traumatique, dépression, anxiété, par exemple) chez les premiers répondants et les autres membres du personnel de la sécurité publique au Canada. Le sondage pourra aussi évaluer la corrélation entre le stress, les symptômes, votre famille et votre travail.
Les chiffres parlent. Nous n’avons aujourd’hui aucune donnée fiable sur le taux de prévalence des TSO. Nous comptons sur vous pour participer et encourager d’autres à participer, car ce faisant, vous apporterez les éléments de preuve nécessaires à établir des stratégies et à attribuer les ressources pour aider la santé mentale de tous les premiers répondants et les autres membres du personnel de la sécurité publique au Canada.
Quelle que soit votre santé mentale, vos réponses aideront tous ceux qui en ont besoin.

Veuillez diffuser ce courriel et les pièces jointes à tous vos employés actuellement en service et encouragez-les à le faire suivre aux autres, afin que tous les membres du personnel soient invités. On planifie distribuer, dès que possible, un sondage ultérieur aux membres du personnel à la retraite.

Pour plus d’informations sur le sondage ou sur l’ICRTSP, veuillez consulter le document ci-joint ou visiter le site http://www.justiceandsafety.ca.

Une invitation officielle à participer au sondage sera envoyée le 1er septembre. Nous espérons sincèrement que vous déciderez d’y participer, pour votre bien et celui de vos pairs, et ainsi nous permettre de faire valoir le besoin d’obtenir les ressources nécessaires pour soutenir la santé mentale en sécurité publique.

Si vous avez des questions ou des commentaires s’il vous plaît contacter Steve Palmer, University of Regina steve.palmer@uregina.ca or 306-535-8365

Des informations supplémentaires concernant ICRTSP est disponible sur le site Web http://www.justiceandsafety.ca
Je vous remercie à nouveau de votre confiance, de votre appui constant et de votre patience tout au long de ce processus.
Je vous remercie sincèrement à l’avance de votre collaboration.

Salutations,
L’équipe ICRTSP

Copyright © 2016 Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety, All rights reserved.
All CIPSRT Stakeholders

Our mailing address is:
Collaborative Centre for Justice and Safety
3737 Wascana Parkway
Regina, Sk S4S 0A2
Canada

University of Regina paper reveals more help needed for first responders suffering from PTSD and other traumas

A newly released paper, developed by University of Regina researcher, Dr. Nick Carleton, in partnership with members of the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) and supported by the Canadian Association of Police Governance (CAPG), the Paramedic Association of Canada (PAC) and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), finds that more needs to be done to help Canada’s first responders and other public safety personnel who are dealing with trauma often associated with their work.

 

Peer Support and Crisis-Focused Psychological Intervention Programs in Canadian First Responders: Blue Paper, evaluates the peer support and psychological intervention programs already being offered to help those who often confront death, violence, and threats to their own lives at work, sometimes on a daily basis.

 

“We found that there is a drastic need for more research assessing the impact of the programs that are currently offered to our police, paramedics, and fire and rescue personnel,” says Carleton. “Currently there is very little, if any evidence available proving the effectiveness of any specific program. This is harmful to the well-being of our first responders.”

 

Carleton says his team found that while first responders and other public safety personnel appreciate the programs that are available to them, having evidence-based, consistent programming across the country will provide greater benefits.  

 

“The mental health of our people is at risk. This year alone, 26 Canadian first responders have taken their own lives. At the current rate this may be the worst year for suicides, surpassing the 40 first responders who died last year,” says Mario Harel, president of CACP.  “This has to change.”

 

Rob Stephanson, president of CAPG, says the release of the Blue Paper is a first step in a long-term commitment to supporting Canadian first responders and other public safety personnel. “The pending Prevalence Survey being released in September is the critical next step.”

 

Carleton’s next step is to release a national survey which will help his team gain a better understanding of the impact that work stress and symptoms have on first responders and their families. They aim to create supports for the mental health of all public safety personnel.

 

“The work of Dr. Carleton and his team sets the stage for the creation of more uniform supports for the mental health of all our public safety personnel,” says Pierre Poirier, executive director of PAC. “The recommendations in the Blue Paper are necessary as the effects of daily traumas put our first responders at risk for psychological challenges, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and anger. It’s my hope that the survey will help researchers better understand the impacts this work can have, and move forward in identifying what is required to support the recognition, prevention, intervention and treatment of mental health concerns facing Canadian first responders.”

 

Access the Blue Paper at: http://www.justiceandsafety.ca/

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The Stigma of Suicide is Alive and Strong!

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When I started my advocacy journey, over 3 years ago, I was a naive spouse driven by pain and the need to bring PTSD out from the darkness. My hope was to save families from some of the pain mine had gone through by having an awareness and knowledge of mental health.
I was not aware police officers were dying by suicide, but soon became aware, from the few brave and courageous spouses and families who stepped forward to break the silence.
These families have deeply touched my soul and I will bring a part of them with me through life. I have shed many tears reading their emails and talking to them. I have heard their pain and felt honoured to have had their trust, so I could share their families’ experiences with the world. I hold them all very dearly. I see them as beacons of bravery and courage.
What I wasn’t prepared for was those who are adamant about keeping suicides and/or PTSD under the rug and quiet. I have been subjected to relentless, mean, rude and hateful Facebook messages and emails about our decision to share and acknowledge suicides. Some have gone as far as saying I am responsible for the deaths of members by popularizing suicides. Others have said I am disrespecting families and the policing profession. Some spouses have hunted down my personal Facebook page and sent me nasty messages saying that I am every police spouse’s worst nightmare, threatening to start a campaign against me if I don’t stop. One told me my soul is going to burn in hell.
This isn’t just limited to suicides, some are furious to have images of RCMP members and PTSD put together. One RCMP member incessantly contacts me every time I use the picture, with different quotes on it, of the RCMP member slumped over his cruiser door during the Moncton tragedy, depicting the true emotions of a police officer reacting to a very traumatic event he witnessed. She states she is a good friend of this member, he doesn’t have PTSD and I have no right to use it in reference to PTSD in anyway. She says I am humiliating him and demands I take it down.
I have had to take my personal information off the website as I have had people contact me saying they have my name and are going to track me down.
I have had senior police members from different police departments contact me and demand I remove posts.
I have not and I will not.
I am very careful not to make references to what led to their suicide other than when families have shared with me the details of their struggles. I don’t even use the word suicide in the post, just “We lost another” and what was made public.
Almost all of the posts I make about losing a police officer are because someone close to them contacts me and requests for me to do so. They feel a deep need to have them publicly honoured and acknowledged.
I feel deeply that to stay quiet about suicide, to continue to treat it as taboo or a sin, is telling those who are struggling with what is going on within them is also wrong. If we don’t open up the dialogue, and be honest, we are telling people “you need to keep your struggles hidden”. We can stop the need to post about members who went to such a dark place, the only viable option they see is to take their own life, but that takes a determination by the leaders to put in place training at all levels, from recruit to retiree, addressing how PTSD is real, can be mitigated and must be in the open to deny it power.
There are many positive messages as well, but the mean ones sting, make some of my days long and sleep does not come easily at night. I received this one positive message just last night, when I was particularly low. These are what I try my best to hold in my heart and allow them to lift me back up.

“Terry
I ran across this page while reading about the Moose Jaw Member that presumably took their own life.

I was not in the RCMP, I was with Regina Police Service from 1979 to 1990. It took me over 15 years to realize I was dealing with PTSD and it was this year that I finally began to manage it with some level of success.

I can’t thank you enough for what you are doing here. Back in my time, no one even heard of PTSD. Three of my brother officers, two of them my fellow SWAT team members took their lives during my years of service. Others have since of course and it’s all preventible and more manageable. Thank you for speaking out, standing up, and organizing. You are saving lives.

Thank you

Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness
Hi Terry, You have no idea how much your kind supportive words mean. Thank you so much Sir for them and your service. Lori

Terry
You are very welcome. You’ve been given a calling. An important one. Every bit as great a calling as the one given to those now needing your help. Fight the fight. Take care.”

Thank you for each and everyone of you have take time to support us and families who are hurting with a few kind words and to do what you can to bring change forward.
We will move forward because those that need us to are worth the pain brought on by the few who are scared and ignorant.
What we witness when we are honest about these tragedies is an opening of dialogue, people sharing, reaching out and connecting. Breaking the isolation that leads people down the dark path of PTSD. This openness builds a community of support and understanding, quite the opposite of what these naysayers are depicting.
There is so much work to be done around mental health and none of it can truly happen until we are honest and stop perpetuating the stigma by keeping quiet about the things we don’t want to, or are afraid to, look at.

Lori
Founder of Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness

Relative Cost of Mental Health in the RCMP

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I have previously posted my belief RCMP employees should be required to see a psychologist of their choice as part of RCMP “Mandatory” medicals. One barrier to this that always comes up is the cost so I thought I would provide some context as to what the cost would be and how insignificant it actually is compared to the amount of funding the RCMP receives and costs of having employees “Off Duty Sick” and on “Graduated Return to Work”. Before all the purists start to comment “I don’t understand the complexity of Treasury Board Funding Policies”, I want to make it very clear I served at a level and in positions where I was required not only to understand “Treasury Board Rules” but Provincial Funding Policies under the “Provincial Policing Services Agreement (PPSA)” as well. I do not represent this as a comprehensive study on the topic because it isn’t (I did it in a couple of hours). I do believe what follows accurately illustrates the financial burden to provide mental health services to every employee is not as financially overwhelming as RCMP Senior Management suggests. As we all know, getting facts from the RCMP is difficult so I obtained the following excerpts from on-line Quarterly Reports and Audits:
“The RCMP achieved Budget 2012 savings of $44.4 million in 2012-13. Savings increased to $89.1 million for 2013-14 and will reach the on-going savings target of $195.2 million in 2014-15 (inclusive of employee benefit plan costs). These savings are being accomplished with minimal impacts on direct policing operations.
The period ending December 31, 2013 marks the second year of Budget 2012 implementation and the RCMP is preparing for the third and final year when its reference levels will be reduced to the full savings target of $195.2 million. Some key initiatives include:
• Health Care Modernization – The RCMP is modernizing its Health Services program through an amendment to the definition of an “insured person” under the Canada Health Act (received Royal Assent on June 29, 2012). As of April 1, 2013, basic health care coverage for regular members is now under provincial/territorial regimes. The RCMP anticipates significant reductions in basic health care expenditures in 2013-14, with full savings associated to the initiative being realized in 2014-15. Savings in expenditures is evident upon review of standard object 4, which is reflecting a $25.8 million year-over-year reduction, largely attributed to this DRAP initiative.
• In 2013-14
o Operating Budget Carry Forward is $53.1 million higher in 2013-14 when compared to 2012-13. In 2012-13, the RCMP received $101.2 million through TB Central Vote transfer, whereas in 2013-14 the RCMP received $154.3 million in funding.”
On September 1st, 2015 there were 28,461 employees in the RCMP. If you multiply that by $160.00, the hourly cost of a Psychologist in the province I reside it would cost $4,553,760.00 annually or $2,276,880.00 if included as part of mandatory medicals every two years. This is less than 1/5th of the $25.8 million year-over-year reduction achieved through the Health Care Modernization noted above.
In February of 2014 the Final Report on the “Audit of Long – Term Sick Leave” was released and below is the Table with respect to Graduated Return to Work. The review used 4 Divisions for Audit purposes. (www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/aud-ver/reports-rapports/lts-cmld-eng.htm)
As shown in Table 1 below, notwithstanding the lack of complete and accurate information in HRMIS, for the divisions tested GRW timelines were significantly higher than standard:
Table 1 – Average period for members reported GRW as at March 1, 2013:
Division #GRW on HRMIS Average # Months
1 7 7.1
2 187 9.4
3 39 7.1
4 28 7.5
Total 261 7.78
Considering it was reported in 2010 that “E” Division had over 200 members on Long Term Sick Leave it is unlikely it is one of the Divisions included in the Audit so lets’ use the hypothetical scenario of 800 members annually on ODS for 2 months or 1/6th of a year prior to coming back on GRW with the Cst. salary of $39/hr. RCMP members are paid for 2,087 hours per year, so 2 months represents 348 hrs or $13,572 in salary. If you multiply that by 800 members which would be a conservative estimate, the cost is $10,857,600 or more than double the cost of having each employee see a psychologist once a year.
No, I am not naive enough to believe seeing a psychologist once a year is going to eliminate Operational Stress Injuries (OSI”s) but it would go a long way to preventing/mitigating not only OSI’s but a number of other issues related to mental health. It would also check off a box on every Commissioned Officers ”Performance Agreement” which seems to be the primary (if not the only) reason for doing things in today’s environment. This simple action would provide employees with an additional resource (maybe their only resource in some cases) in the eventuality they do suffer an OSI, provide them with an opportunity to develop strategies to increase resiliency to OSI’s early thereby reducing the long term effects and above all promote and educate everyone on mental health.
The RCMP Mental Health Strategy 2014-2019 listed the following as key areas:
(www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/fam/strat-eng.htm)
Our focus
The strategy focuses on five key areas:
1. Promotion
2. Education
3. Prevention
4. Early detection and intervention
5. Continuous improvement.
The requirement for employees to see a psychologist as part of mandatory medicals addresses all 5. The cost everyone is so concerned about in all likelihood would be recovered multiple times over through reduced ODS and GRW. I am not one to write the Public Safety Minister, Provincial Justice Minister or the Commissioner as you are quickly labelled a “disgruntled employee”, “uniformed” or “trouble maker” and I am none of them. I visited a former colleague the other day and he told me I was too “passionate” about the force when I was working and I am still too “passionate” about it. I like everyone else served proudly and despite the pitfalls of certain individuals within the organization there are a far greater number of employees (past and present) who are as passionate as I am and if we all stand together change on this issue is possible. Yes, there is a significant cost to providing mental health services but there is a far greater cost to “not providing mental health services”. Above all, maybe there won’t be a next time someone feels they have no option other than to sacrifice their own life.
S/Sgt. R.T. Miller (retired)

Crash Impact

Silence.

Cavernous, uncomfortable silence.

You know the kind – it’s deafening. There is an elephant in the room, but no one wants to acknowledge the beast. And certainly, no one wants to talk about how the beast is affecting his or her work, home life, or feelings.

This is the kind of silence heard when a few Traffic members, Reconstructionists, OCC operators, and clerical staff were asked about how serious injury or fatal crash files impact them. Silence.

But listen…

Quietly, one member responds. Then another, and another. Slowly, whispered conversations echo loudly in the silence, and in our emotions. Senior members who have been impacted by repeated exposure to serious injury/fatal crashes and new members who are pro-actively fighting to prevent long-term impact from dealing with these types of files are beginning to speak out about what it takes to remain healthy while doing this job.

Do you hear?

Serious injury/fatal crashes have “made me appreciate how precious and fragile life really is. In a blink of an eye, and because of human error, be it “accidental” or with criminal intent, people’s lives are changed forever. Being sorry doesn’t cut it. You can’t undo dead.”

Another member notes, “My training prepared me to attend the scene and deal with the scene but no amount of training can prepare you to see your first dead body and the carnage you may encounter at a scene.”

And another member expands on that thought, noting surprise at the “looky lous” because a scene on a public road is challenging to contain, as well as the difficulty the family of the deceased often have in comprehending the implications of the incident.

Being a Traffic member attending crashes has a different impact than attending domestics, bar fights, or even homicides. These files “tend to be more senseless than other injuries police deal with as generally there is no intent to injure anyone.”

“…we also see a lot of good people have a momentary lapse in judgement and make a stupid mistake. Unfortunately that mistake can often prove to be deadly.”

“I feel the likelihood of developing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is higher for Traffic members than for regular members, as we attend fatal MVI’s more often than other members attend death scenes. The odds of fatalities increase with vehicle usage on our roads, so it’s not going away.”

The conversations and emails also offer practical ideas of how to alleviate the immediate impact of serious injury/fatal crashes on members and staff, which will also reduce the development of complications like PTSD further along in a policing career.

Educate yourself.

Read “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Dr. Gilmartin, which explains the physical and psychological impact of police work. The book is suitable for members and their families. “Knowledge is power.”

Talk.

Our human capacity to deal with stressful times amazingly increases as we talk about thoughts and feelings. Seems too simple, but it works. Your brain and emotions are then able to categorize those thoughts and feelings appropriately for filing so they stay part of the job, not become mixed up with “normal life.”

Talk at work.

Take advantage of informal & formal debriefings at the office. “Get help, victim services, doctor, talk to someone (you trust). Don’t bottle it up.”

Different people have varying views of using black humour as part of the office talk. Black humour, explains one member, is a “valuable coping method – know your audience – (it’s) not prejudicial or racial but lightening the mood.” A younger member notes, “Black humour is present and I occasionally take part, but it seems forced and expected (as in: it wouldn’t exist unless it was already expected). I feel it does little to help or harm in my opinion, it can be quite funny though, in a morbid sort of way.” While an older member says, “For me (black humour) is a vital component to my mental health. I am very careful of the audience and alive to a time and place for such.” And another member comments, “After seeing so many collisions it’s almost like we try to desensitize the situations so we can get the job done. I feel that somewhere down the road people call (that desensitization) PTSD.”

Talk to professionals

“Though I didn’t believe I had been affected seriously I felt it would be a good idea as I had attended several serious collisions in my short career, and it did help to talk to someone who you knew could handle the details. I feel I have access to any help I would need should I have issues.”

Talk to family and friends.

“Be in relationships, do not isolate.”

“Talk, not about details but about the impact, the feelings, the things I noticed or that caused me frustration”

Have a life outside work

“Walking the dogs provides so much for me – exercise, companionship, nature, and it all helps me cope.”

“I try to keep work separate from my personal life. Police tend to talk about work when off duty. I play hockey with other officers… but rarely do I attend social events specific to police.”

“At home the best thing for me is to stay active, I hate the gym but I’ll play just about any sport and I feel playing a team sport clears my mind from any negative thoughts.”

“I worry that if I don’t keep my personal life and my work life separate I will get caught up with (the impact of work) at home.”

Believe in the positives

There are also positives to being the one who responds to serious injury/fatal crashes.

“I am a very spiritual person and I rely on my faith in times such as this. I believe that, although I do not know “why” right now, one day all my questions will be answered, and then everything will make sense. I know I am not in charge and I don’t make the decisions.”

“…this is a job that someone has to do and that someone is me. Those involved tell me that they are glad I do what I do. My friends and acquaintances often say the same… I take some pride in that.”

“Follow-up makes a difference – assisting the family after the fact has made me a better member and a better person.”

Working in Traffic is “not just writing tickets. People see us in a negative light when we are writing tickets, but we have the opportunity to take seriously negative situations and be seen by the public in a more positive light, showing compassion and understanding.”

Serious injury/fatal crashes have definitive impacts on the members and support staff who work on them. As we talk about those impacts, and support one another in making healthy choices in our work and home lives, those impacts can change from negatives to positives.

Help break the silence.

– By Marnie Pohlmann

Recommendations to the Veterans standing committee on PTSD within the RCMP

PTSD is Families

Prevention

Change needs to start right as soon as a cadet is signed on at Depot with curriculum changes/additions. In Depot there has to be a mindset instilled that members are going to see things that are going to affect them and that this is normal and it is normal as well to ask for help. Cadets need to see by video of and role plays a debriefing from both positions. As well as role play how to approach a member in need or has been diagnosed with an OSI. They need to be able to demonstrate how an incident can affect someone and it is ok to ask for help after an incident. There needs to be education in the psychological effect to the brain by trauma. Part of the physical education training needs to include mental health resilience practices, as well as signs and symptoms of PTSD.

The RCMP needs to have a PTSD survivors video library available online, showing all ranks, as well as, spouses who speak opening about their PTSD journey. This would help de-stigmatize, bring awareness and show all the different aspects of PTSD and its possible effects.

All existing Leaders and supervisors need to be trained on in the psychological effect to the brain by trauma and how to develop an open and non-threatening atmosphere around mental health. Leaders and supervisors must be able to demonstrate how to respond to a member when approached about an incident as well as how to check in with a member after one. All new leaders and supervisors must pass a module on mental health and show examples of how they have demonstrated and lead a mental health aware career.

Spouse and family members need to be invited to an OSI education and awareness event as part of the graduation ceremonies at depot. They would gain knowledge on the effects of trauma on the brain, signs and symptoms of PTSD. Spouses would learn how to support a loved one after a traumatic incident and when to seek help. What resources are available and how to access them as well as self-care. PTSD survivors would speak about their experiences. When a member marries the spousal peer support responsible for their detachment must be notified by their supervisor so they can provide the spouse with information on signs, symptoms, and resources and how to access them. An excellent example is The Calgary police service has made it mandatory all married officers must attend a 3 day OSI couple’s seminar in Canmore with their spouse. The officer is paid for their time and accommodations for the couple are covered by the police force.

Maintenance

There has to be a travelling road show of PTSD survivors of all ranks and spouses which brings that their message out to the working members. Development of national PTSD peer support program with representative in all detachment for both members and spouses. Ongoing up to date mental health literacy at every block training and an embedded psychologist within large detachments and areas. Members will have counselling available to them and their family on an ongoing basis with check-ins every 6 months. When a member is promoted or moved into a specialized unit there must be mental health training developed specifically for the unit which is to be given before the member joins the unit and specialized unit mental health ongoing follow up.

There needs to be zero tolerance for stigmatizing of mental health issues or individuals by any rank.

Post incident care

After all incidents members must be offered a psychological debriefing, given a list of resources available and connected with a peer support member. Mandatory check in points must be initiated after incidents, 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months and they must be documented. Spouses need to be notified of incidents, not the details but that their spouse was involved in a potential traumatic incident and what services are available to them. If it is a major incident spouses need to be given the option of being involved in the psychological debriefing and follow up. Members in an isolated community should be removed from that community following a traumatic event and moved to a bigger centre so support services are available

Post diagnoses care

Standard procedure for members diagnosed with PTSD need to be implemented; must be given either a referral to an OSI clinic or a list of psychologists/psychiatrists who specialize in military/LEO PTSD. Members and spouses should not be left to figure this out for themselves. Spouses of members with PTSD must be given more than the 6 psychological visits per year and a referral to couples counselling specializing in PTSD. There needs to be mandatory post diagnoses or off duty sick checks-ins for both the member and the spouse. This must be done with honest compassion for the member and their family. Not once in over 3 years has someone from the VA or the RCMP spoken to me, ask how my husband and our family are doing if we required further support.

Not one stitch of policy can replace human contact and compassion. Human connection is the key to successful healing and return to work.

By Lori wilson

Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness

The deaths in Moncton are a tragedy but so is the fact our National Police Force is still one of the few remaining police services in this country that have outdated and ineffective firepower to deal with active shooter situations.

I have read in various media reports that the RCMP officers in Moncton who responded to the call of an individual walking down a street brandishing a firearm were only equipped with pistols and shotguns. I was very shocked and dismayed to read these reports because in 2009 I was contracted by the RCMP to undertake a survey analyzing whether the RCMP should switch from the shotgun to the carbine. At the time I began the research 53 police agencies in Canada including the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the Metropolitan Toronto Police and the Calgary police service had already armed their officers with patrol carbines.

My report was submitted to the RCMP in March 2010 and was based on consultations with firearms specialists in the National Use of Force Program, Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing at RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa. The report based on a survey questionnaire solicited responses internally from divisional members in the RCMP who were knowledgeable about firearms. A sample of urban suburban and rural police agencies were also sampled in the survey. In total my report was based on over 2500 survey responses.

The report sought answers to whether the RCMP should 1) Replace the shotgun with the carbine; 2) Keep the shotgun or 3) add the carbine to the RCMP’s existing armament. The Report was titled ‘Aiming For Safety: A Needs Analysis to determine the feasibility of adopting the patrol carbine in the RCMP. My recommendations based on the report’s responses concluded:

The RCMP should immediately adopt and phase in a national patrol carbine program for all of its uniformed patrol officers regardless of whether they are providing policing services in a rural/urban/suburban environment. The report also stated that the RCMP should:

Retain the shotgun but reconfigure this firearm so that it fires only non-deadly projectiles such as the beanbag and that Carbines should be reserved only for deadly force situations. The report also recommended that ‘prior to deploying carbines at the patrol officer level the RCMP should plan and execute a comprehensive and effective training program for all of its members. I stated that ‘new policies should be drafted and issued which include guidelines on the storage, maintenance, training and re-qualification requirements for the carbine as well as to where and when the weapon can be deployed.

I find it appalling that four years later the RCMP has failed to implement these recommendations. Back in March 2011 post media carried a news story titled ‘RCMP looking to replace service shotguns with rifles by Doug Quan. In that article Staff Sgt Scott Warren, chair of the RCMP’s officer safety committee stated “Yesterday is when this gun needed to be on the streets.’ Here we are in 2014 and RCMP officers in this country are still not armed with patrol carbines despite the fact that there are exigent circumstances where they may be required to respond to ‘Mayerthorpe type situations.’
The RCMP claim they have made some changes but from media reports it appears that the Moncton RCMP officers who responded to a call involving a man with a gun did not have access to assault rifles. My question is ‘Why’ did they not have assault rifles and ‘Why’ has the RCMP not acted upon the recommendations contained in my 2010 report.

My report was authored during the period when there was a revolt at RCMP headquarters by Senior ranking RCMP officers and when Bob Paulson was promoted to Assistant Commissioner responsible for the National Use of Force Program, Community , Contract and Aboriginal Policing at RCMP headquarters. The terms of my contract required that the final milestone after submitting my report was to meet and review the draft report and then make any changes or revisions that were required. Despite calling my RCMP contacts at RCMP headquarters repeatedly and sending them emails no one returned my calls. I found it extremely odd that the people who had been working with me on a daily if not weekly basis on this project were not returning my calls. I thought it extremely odd because I had been paid in full for the project and although the report had been submitted I indicated that I would make any changes they required at no cost to the RCMP.

After Three months of not receiving a single email or phone call from my contacts at the RCMP I received a letter from Bob Paulson indicating that he was not satisfied with the report because I relied on American studies and did not include any Canadian research. I wrote back to him indicating that there are no Canadian studies that have undertaken an examination of the patrol carbine and that if he had any issues these should have been dealt with in a face to face meeting to review the report which was the final milestone of the contract. It appears that because my report was not authorized on his watch that he wanted nothing to do with it. I persevered and eventually had a meeting with the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP Darrill Madill at which Paulson was present. I challenged Paulson to name a single study in Canada that had examined the patrol carbine and he couldn’t. He also admitted to telling his staff not to contact me either by telephone or email which I found bizarre to say the least. I informed Darrill Madill that Paulson’s conduct in this regard was outrageous and told Paulson exactly what I thought of his letter and the repressive actions he had taken against his staff.

Approximately three months later there was a change in the RCMP Command structure and Rod Knect now the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP had his executive assistant contact me. The Assistant informed me that he and the Senior Deputy Commissioner had just returned from the inquest into the deaths of the four RCMP officers at Mayerthorpe. He said the SDC asked him to find out if there were any reports at RCMP Headquarters that dealt with the issue of the patrol carbine and they discovered my report attached to Paulson’s letter. After reading my report both he and the SDC thought my report was excellent. They informed me that they would be moving quickly to implement my recommendations to equip officers with the patrol carbine. Unfortunately a few months later the SDC announced that he was leaving the RCMP and taking a position as Chief of the Edmonton Police Service.

So here we are in 2014 and the RCMP still have not trained or equipped their uniform patrol officers with the patrol carbine. I can understand that making such a transition can take time but my report was provided to the RCMP four years ago. The question remains ..in this day and age why is Canada’s National Police Force still behind the times when it comes to equipping their officers with patrol carbines? Police agencies across Canada took these steps years ago. My report addressed a major flaw in the RCMP’s firearms technology and capability and today we are still not much further ahead in this area. In my opinion Bob Paulson has a lot of questions to answer. For a Commissioner who claims he will deal with bullying and harassment within the RCMP he has no credibility because I saw firsthand how he muzzled the RCMP officers who were working with me on a project that in the end would have helped ensure the safety of Canadians and possibly prevent shooting tragedies like the one in Mayerthorpe and most likely in Moncton. The deaths in Moncton are a tragedy but so is the fact our National Police Force is still one of the few remaining police services in this country that have outdated and ineffective firepower to deal with active shooter situations.

Darryl T Davies
Instructor in criminology and criminal justice
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Carleton University

* The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity and do not necessarily represent the position of Carleton University.