Cops investigating murders and sex crimes are stressed out and face heavy workloads, resulting in increased use of sick leave and higher alcohol consumption, according to a study analyzing Ottawa’s police force.
It’s also resulting in them being less loyal and less engaged in their work,
The news doesn’t come as a surprise to Ottawa police brass — they asked for the report after officers made it clear they’re feeling overburdened.
“When the investigators brought forward concerns, I think it would’ve been detrimental not to act, or not do research, or not say we’re going to look into it,” said deputy police chief Gilles Larochelle.
The Criminal Investigations Directorate Enhancement Project began in 2009 and was presented at Monday’s police services board meeting.
The OPS Role Overload study led by Dr. Linda Duxbury, a business professor at Carleton University, was conducted over a 10-month period and included focus groups, a survey, and individual interviews.
Roughly 80% of criminal investigators and managers in CID took part in the anonymous survey.
Almost two dozen recommendations have already been implemented by police, said Larochelle.
Key changes involve supervision.
“Essentially, sergeants needed to be sergeants. They assumed too much the role of an investigator, as opposed to a supervisor,” said Larochelle.
When officers are given a case, “Often, there’s that pressure you put on yourself to ensure that you succeed. So that’s why a sergeant is so important to supervise and say, ‘you’re on the right track’ or ‘you need to look at this or that,’” he said.
In addition to helping the investigators, the study also provides better quality to the victims, said Larochelle.
Providing more support is expected to eventually alleviate some of the overload on investigators.
“I can’t say we’ve seen changes immediately,” said Larochelle.
He’s expecting a turnaround in about two years.
Duxbury says the mental health of police officers and work intensification and overload is an issue for police across Canada, “because city governments are trying to do more with less and they’re trying to economize, and police services is one of their more expensive budget items, but they can’t stop policing,” she said.
At the same time, “you can’t keep pushing police officers. And the problem is, that we want a safe city but we don’t want to pay for it.”
Duxbury applauds Ottawa police for taking what she calls a leadership role in addressing the issues.