The recent and sudden firing of a veteran police officer suffering from a work-related stress disorder is not sitting well with the union representing members of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.Sgt. Robert MacMullin, president of Nova Scotia Government Employees Union Local 1995, said the case may set a dangerous precedent for emergency responders adversely affected by negative events on the job.
The officer, who has not been named, had his employment terminated on July 3 after spending a year performing modified duties following a medical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
MacMullin said the 28-year veteran was fired without just cause and that the union was only given 20 minutes notice of his dismissal.
“All they said was that it was an undue hardship on the organization to provide any further long-term accommodation for him,” said MacMullin, who added that the officer had been assigned to desk duties following his return to work.
“He answers the phone, he takes statements, he’s going out and taking pictures of vehicle accidents and property damage — so he is a productive member of the organization, he’s doing meaningful police work,” he said. “If he doesn’t do this then another officer has to come in off the road to do it, so where is the undue hardship?”
MacMullin said the union has filed a grievance seeking arbitration for wrongful dismissal.
Angus Fleming, director of human resources with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, confirmed the dismissal has been grieved and said the CBRM is agreeable to arbitration.
“If there is something wrong with the employer's decision then the arbitrator will fix it, that is the normal process,” said Fleming.
Police Chief Peter McIsaac also said he could not comment on the details of the incident but added that work-related stress issues are taken very seriously by the force.
But MacMullin said that does not appear to be the case.
“Every other police agency in the country is educating and moving forward in supporting their members who have PTSD,” he said. “Why are we being treated different than anyone else in the country?”
McMullin said the issue is not just a police matter in that is affects all emergency responders.
“It’s the stuff that nobody else in this world is meant to see and we are sent there to deal with it,” he said. “We were there for you, now are you there for us?
"We are all aware that emergency service personnel and soldiers are finally getting the support they need — the rest of the country is taking two steps foward and our organization has just taken two steps back."
An arbitration date for the case has yet to be set.