Ontario is hiring 200 new police officers and people are not pleased
The provincial government is launching what they call a "recruitment initiative" to hire 200 additional Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers in response to a sweeping report on mental health issues and suicide among members of the force.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the news Thursday afternoon during a press conference in Orillia, Ontario, while a battalion of uniformed officers and police vehicles stood guard behind him.
"As we help communities recover from the impacts of COVID-19, it's absolutely critical we give our brave men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to do their job, stay healthy, and keep us all safe," said Ford.
"That's why our government is putting more boots on the ground to crack down on the criminals who would rob families and individuals of the chance to rebuild their lives during this very difficult period."
Premier Doug Ford, standing with a line of police behind him, announces funding for 200 more OPP officers.— Emma McIntosh (@EmmaMci) August 20, 2020
Quite the image, especially as many call for police to be defunded and the Ontario Human Rights Commission finds systemic racism is alive and well at the Toronto police. pic.twitter.com/i7mQO93iD4
The $25 million hiring blitz is one of several measures taken by the provincial government in response to recommendations made by the Independent Review Panel after investigating OPP workplace culture through the lenses of mental health and occupational stress injuries.
Between 2013 and 2019, when the review began, 13 OPP officers took their own lives. The IRP report also suggested that burnout was widespread among officers, as well as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We needed to react and respond to some of the mental health concerns that we heard from the (Ontario Provincial Police Association) and (OPP) Commissioner Carrique," said Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones of the move on Thursday.
"As we continue to safely and gradually reopen the province and more people go back to work, these new frontline OPP officers will provide much-needed support to our existing complement of officers and ensure we keep our communities safe."
I don't think people realize how bad this is for Ontario. Not only does it reek of racial insensitivity and neglect for teachers, as people struggle during Covid19 financially, we will give more money to cops to do what? Fine the poor for money they don't have or lock them up? https://t.co/J6AAydPVX2— But I Just Wanna Hug (@ButIJustWanna) August 20, 2020
While reasons for the decision may be solid, the optics of hiring 200 new cops at a time when many are calling for police forces to be defunded in light of mass racism and brutality are... well, not great.
Premier Ford announces a hiring spree of 200 new OPP officers, at a cost of $25M. As many call for defunding and dismantling police, the PCs have made $37M in cop-related investments over the past couple weeks.https://t.co/NbbUpK04iHhttps://t.co/gJ410uafg6— Jack Hauen (@jackhauen) August 20, 2020
Many on Twitter are pointing out that maybe $25 million would be better spent on parts of the public service with dire employee shortages, such as education or medicine.
Ontario, what the jibbering heck are you thinking?— firstname.lastname@example.org (@johannabee) August 20, 2020
We need teachers. And support workers and smaller classes.
We need social services support.
We need well paid and protected health and long term care workers.
The last thing we need right now is more cops. https://t.co/XBpAUYJHK4
A lack of teachers isn't the only thing holding back a smooth transition back to school in September, either — Ontario is also now facing a shortage of bus drivers.
I assume they are going to drive school buses and do some teaching. https://t.co/Lg3X4Carxe— Josh Visser (@joshvisser) August 20, 2020
The move to hire 200 new cops and the timing of this announcement has prompted myriad reaction GIFs of frustrated faces... and also of Chris Farley.
One group is quite pleased with the decision, however. Can you guess who? (It's the cops.)
President Rob Jamieson and the OPPA Board of Directors are grateful to all who have listened and acted to improve the lives and safety of our members. A few key backgrounder documents for reference are being included on this thread. #OPP #OppAssociation pic.twitter.com/DElLTrUdBW— OPP Association (@OPPAssociation) August 20, 2020
"Policing is a service that ensures Ontario's communities remain safe, secure, healthy and prosperous," said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique on Thursday. "The addition of 200 frontline officers demonstrates a commitment to the Ontario Provincial Police, the well-being of officers and community safety."
Rob Jamieson, President of the Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA), is similarly grateful to the PC government.
"This announcement aligns with the recommendations highlighted by the Independent Review Panel and further reinforces the government's commitment to support the mental health and well-being of our members," he said.
"We would like to thank Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones for their ongoing support and dedication."
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