A constable with the Toronto Police Service Drug Squad died of a fentanyl overdose in April, according to a statement released Thursday by police from acting chief Jim Ramer.
Const. Michael Thompson, 37, was found in his home in medical distress on April 10 by Durham Regional Police. He was rushed to hospital, where he died three days later.
Police said the quantity of fentanyl found in his system was too large to have been caused by contact with the drug.
Thompson started as a police officer in 2006 and joined the Drug Squad in 2014.
“It is always a difficult time when we lose a member of the Toronto Police Service, regardless of the circumstances,” the statement said. “It’s even more difficult when the circumstances of a specific loss leave us with more questions than answers.”
Const. Jenniferjit Sidhu met Thompson as an instructor in the recruit training section at the Toronto Police College in the mid-2000s when he came through the program as a cadet.
“He was kind, compassionate, respectful and super happy and excited — like most recruits are — to be wearing the uniform and to be serving and protecting the city of Toronto.
“He loved his job and what he was doing.”
Sidhu said she was “disheartened” to learn about his passing — especially the circumstances around it.
“Sometimes you just don’t see it and it’s just so hard.
“He got along with everybody and always gave the best that he had.”
Meaghan Gray, a spokesperson for Toronto police, told Global News that they believe Thompson’s death is an isolated incident.
“We don’t believe we have addiction issues at the squad,” she said. “But we are talking with his colleagues and friends to see if there were any signs and taking a look at any service that we didn’t provide to Michael and perhaps, we should be providing to other members.”
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said that Thompson was a very “well-respected police officer” and that as far as he knew, there were “not indications of this at all” to show that Thompson may have had a problem.
As for resources that are available for police officers, especially for those in undercover work like Thompson was, McCormack said that he believes the Toronto Police do a good job but that there is always “room for improvement.”
“When officers are invovled in this type of work, they are monitored more closely, they are supervised more closely. They are only allowed to be in a position of this type of risk for a limited period of time.
He said they also meet with a psychiatrist on an annual basis to be evaluated to make sure their “wellness” is protected.
“We do take a lot of measures — we also have a very robust employee assistance program and other methods to assists officers.”
“It is a tragedy,” he said.
“He was a great police officer who was too young and left us too early.”
McCormack said the investigation is ongoing into Thompson’s death and the circumstances under which he ingested the drug.
Some of the cases that Thompson was involved in were due to begin in court on Monday.
Ramer said in the statement that, “By working with the Crown, the Service has learned that because of his death, and the circumstances under which it happened, changes will be made to how these cases proceed, or not, through the justice system.”
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 100 times stronger than morphine, is often combined with other drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. It has also been blamed for the growing overdose crisis across the country that officials say claimed the lives of more than 2,800 people last year.
—With a file from The Canadian Press