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PTSD among OPP officers contributing to staffing shortages: auditor general

An OPP cruiser is seen in this undated file photo. An OPP cruiser is seen in this undated file photo.

Medical leave taken by Ontario Provincial Police officers with post-traumatic stress disorder is contributing significantly to understaffing at detachments across the province and affecting service levels, the auditor general has found.

In her annual report released Wednesday, Bonnie Lysyk said that in 2020 more than 1,000 front-line constable positions were vacant - about a quarter of all such positions in the OPP.

There are several types of leave, Lysyk noted, including parental leave, but the increase is driven by employees off due to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims - that number increased 364 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

"The increasing number of OPP officers filing WSIB claims for PTSD and other mental health injuries is symptomatic of an ongoing issue related to officer mental health and stress," Lysyk wrote in the report.

Those claims led to $42.7 million in costs and 11,037 days of leave in 2020, the report said.

The understaffing has also led to higher overtime costs, increasing from $32 million in 2015-16 to $36 million in 2019-20, the report found.

"We question the sustainability of the rapidly rising financial costs, declining front-line officers in local communities, and effects on employee well-being caused by traumatic stress at the OPP," the report said.

"We noted the OPP had not performed any analysis to project how much the financial cost and vacancies associated with traumatic stress would continue to rise over the coming years, or whether these effects could be mitigated."

The staffing shortages led to 28 per cent fewer hours of patrols, and 26 municipalities received less than half of the hours of policing services they needed, the report found.

The audit also found that regions with higher front-line officer vacancies resolve fewer crimes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021. Top Stories

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