BRACEBRIDGE - Bracebridge businessman, town crier and former OPP officer Bruce Kruger has received a national award for his work drawing attention to the lack of services and support available for police officers suffering with post traumatic stress disorder.
Bracebridge resident and former OPP officer Bruce Kruger, centre, receives the 2012 Tema Conter Lifetime Achievement Award from Dr. Howard Conter, left, and Vince Savoia, right, CEO and founder of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust. Kruger was honoured for his work in raising awareness of post traumatic stress disorder in the police force and the lack of support available.
The Tema Conter Memorial Trust named Kruger as this year’s winner of their TCMT Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service. The Tema Conter Memorial Trust is a national not-for-profit organization that works to “help the men and women of our correctional, emergency, and military organizations when they need it most,” specifically with post traumatic stress disorder. The award is presented to an “individual who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in affecting organizational change, growth and development when dealing with acute, cumulative and post traumatic stress in the workplace.”
“I was very honoured,” said Kruger, on receiving the award. “It means that I was successful in bringing out the need for change to address post traumatic stress disorder and mental illnesses within policing and it became highly successful in creating an environment for the change.”
In 2010, Kruger filed a complaint with Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin regarding the difficulties he and other police officers have faced getting recognition and help, either through the police force or through workman’s compensation, for post traumatic stress disorder developed as a result of their policing duties.
In October 2012, the Ombudsman presented his report, In the Line of Duty, which directed 28 recommendations toward the OPP and six at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
“It was the largest investigation that the ombudsman had ever undertaken and it was the most recommendations that he’s ever made for one investigation,” said Kruger.
The recommendations include reducing stigma within the force, training officers on post traumatic stress disorder, confidential tracking of stress injuries, creating a community referral list of mental health resources, and providing retired officers with ongoing access to supports. The OPP is currently in the process of reviewing and implementing the recommendations and must report back to the ombudsman quarterly with their progress.
“As a result of my initial complaint getting to this stage, it’s now affecting all police within the province of Ontario; there’s a working group set up with the Ministry of Labour to address these with all municipal police through the Ontario Chiefs of Police Association; and, as a result also, these recommendations are being discussed now at the Canadian Chiefs of Police for adoption across Canada,” said Kruger. “So it was a huge major step forward.”
Kruger has found the help he needs to overcome his own post traumatic stress disorder and continues to assist both the OPP with implementing the recommendations and fellow officers in their quest for assistance.
“The Ontario Provincial Police have done a tremendous job at adopting as many of the recommendations as quickly as possible and as a result of it also, they have issued a mental health book specifically on post traumatic stress for over 6,000 officers and families,” said Kruger.
The lifetime achievement award was presented to Kruger at the Tema Conter Gala Dinner in Vaughan on Feb. 23, with OPP commissioner Chris Lewis in attendance among 450 others, including police, fire, EMS and Armed Forces personnel. The award winner receives a framed photograph that has been designed and taken specifically to represent the recipient. For Kruger’s award, he is dressed as the town crier, he is holding the ombudsman report, In the Line of Duty, and he is standing in front of the OPP Wall of Honour for fallen officers located at its headquarters in Orillia.
“When I speak to various organizations about mental health and post traumatic stress, I have given a cry initially as a town crier,” explained Kruger. “But then I say to the audience, but now I want to talk about real crying, and as a result I try to spread the word as best I can as a town crier.”
The book in his hand is the result of his complaint to the ombudsman and the Wall of Honour is a place he hopes never to be.
At the time Kruger put filed his complaint with the ombudsman, the family of an officer who committed suicide because of post traumatic stress disorder was fighting to have their loved one’s name included on the wall. They felt that he had died as a result of his policing duties, as much as if he was killed on the job.
“So I wrote and said, what are they doing to try to keep my name off it?” said Kruger. “That’s why the Wall of Honour is in the background. What are they doing to keep police officers names off that wall?”