Note from Jason: He never responded directly to me. He directed me to a wonderful woman who is in charge of the organization’s Critical Incident Stress Response/Peer Support Teams. We’ve done some wonderful work together. But, he never responded to me directly.
April 7, 2010
My name is Jason MacKenzie and I am the husband of Cindy MacKenzie, an OPP Constable of nearly 12 years, who recently took her own life after a long, painful and ultimately unsuccessful battle with Bipolar Disorder.
I have great concerns with the manner in which the OPP dealt with her over the years and continued to allow her to serve as a front-line police officer despite her mental illness. My intention is in no way to apportion blame but is rather to hopefully provide some insight to help you serve both your own officers and the public more effectively in the future.
She was on short-term disability for approximately half of the last 5 years and struggled mightily while at work. There were times she worked as a desk officer and times she was on the road. During her return after her first stint on disability in 2006 she was only kept in the office for 2-3 days before returning to the road. She recently, I believe in December of 2009, was involved in a traffic accident while on the road in her cruiser. She told me afterwards that she experienced a panic attack which led to the crash. I’m not certain whether she was forthright with her supervisor as to the exact cause of the incident. I’m certain the Traffic Report would detail that clearly.
Each time she returned to work she had a supporting letter from her doctor. I can understand that this could be seen as sufficient but it clearly was not. There was a period in 2006 where she was seriously considering driving her cruiser into an oncoming transport truck because she was suffering so profoundly. When she told me this I took her to her psychiatrist and she was institutionalized for a period of time.
I know that some of her fellow officers were aware of the difficulty she was experiencing at work and in fact at her funeral this was mentioned to me a few times. It would be difficult for someone to report a colleague and to be honest I’m not sure that I possess the strength of character to have done it had I been in the situation either. Regardless, her safety, that of her fellow officers and the public makes it imperative that there is more proactivity when dealing with people in this situation. This might include regular and ongoing interviews with her co-workers and more importantly implementing the organizational and cultural changes that would allow these officers to feel more comfortable coming forward.
I also understand the need for privacy both from a legislative and human perspective but talking to her friends over the past week as yielded a lot of information indicating the level to which she was struggling.
The pieces of the puzzle were all there, albeit scattered and difficult to assemble. But families, supervisors, colleagues and the OPP as an organization need to work together more closely to achieve better outcomes going forward.
On a more positive note, many officers attended her funeral last week and it brought much comfort to Cindy’s family and friends. The return salute my 5 year old daughter received made her happy.
Thank you and best regards,