As a social worker and psychologist, I am deeply disappointed by two resolutions that passed at the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Annual General Meeting held in June 2021. Both resolutions focused on the worker’s compensation system and acknowledged the inherent detrimental effect of policing on officers’ health. The resolutions cited the WSIB system as cost-prohibitive for employers leaving police services across Ontario to find financial relief. The OACP’s proposal to reduce the income replacement benefit as an incentive measure for return to work is not an effective cost-cutting measure. It is a dangerous measure that jeopardizes the wellbeing of our brave men and women who are risking their lives day in, day out to protect our safety. This policy change is not only nearsighted but harmful to an already vulnerable group of people. I stand with the police associations and unions across Ontario and ask that the proposed resolutions be revised immediately.
We, clinicians, want people back at work – when it is safe. There is no win in forcing police officers to return to work prematurely. In fact, it poses serious personal and public safety risks! Police officers already require extensive convincing from their treatment team to stay off from work due to internal and external pressure to serve their communities and the inherent stigma related to mental health in the profession.
Our officers sacrifice so much every day and should receive the compassion and care they deserve. It takes a lot for a first responder to reach out for help. Our response as a society should not be to punish them for it. The proposed changes will lead to dangerous consequences for officers, their families, and communities at large. Going down this path will prevent officers from reaching out for help, they will suffer alone, and they will die. I am calling on OACP to rescind or withdraw the resolutions. We have a responsibility to take care of our first responders when they are injured.
Vera Voroskolevska, MSW, RSW, PhD. C. Psych