Former cop was awarded $630K in lost wages. Now, Toronto police may try to take it away

When former police officer Ralph Thistle finally received $630,000 in lost wages, he thought his lengthy battle was finally over. But now, Toronto police are taking the first step to potentially appeal the payment, CBC News has learned. 

The Toronto Police Service (TPS) maintains no decision to appeal has been made, and that it has only filed a legal notice that could lead to one. The service says it wants to review the payment further.

But Thistle says TPS is dragging out an already lengthy dispute and threatening his emotional and financial wellbeing. 

“Why are they doing it? It’s because they can,” Thistle, 64, told CBC News in a recent interview.

“And what it’s done, it’s brought so many bad memories that my family wanted to put in the past. But here they are again, starting this legal action. With no care to restorative justice to me or my family. I am heartbroken. I am saddened.” 

CBC News first told Thistle’s story last June. Soon afterward, his 14-year battle for compensation ended when Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board [WSIB] awarded Thistle hundreds of thousands of dollars after determining his work-related post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] cut his policing career short.

When the cheques arrived in the mail, Thistle said, he finally felt vindicated.

“I said to my family, ‘This is an opportunity to heal. Let’s take the money and walk with dignity.'”

Ralph Thistle before PTSD cut his career short in 2007. (Ralph Thistle)

Thistle abruptly resigned from the Toronto Police Service in 2007 after almost 30 years on the job. 

He worked on child exploitation cases and homicide investigations, and was a weapons training officer. He was honoured with a Governor General’s Award and a Service Medal of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem for his contributions to policing and the city.

His work, he says, was taking a heavy toll. He became increasingly estranged from his wife and daughters. 

After shooting an armed bank robber, his mental health worsened, leading to extreme paranoia and both homicidal and suicidal thoughts. At the time of his resignation, he was just months away from being eligible to collect a pension.

His PTSD rendered him depressed and an alcoholic. He eventually became penniless and homeless before starting the recovery process with the help of doctors and his Indigenous community.

Intent to Object

According to documents filed with WSIB and reviewed by CBC News, the Toronto Police Service has filed what’s called an Intent to Object Form..

Essentially, it’s the first step in a potential appeal of the $630,000 WSIB ordered TPS to pay Thistle. 

The document states Toronto police want to “analyze the calculations and basis underlying the board’s implementation of the loss of earnings.”

If TPS isn’t satisfied with how the calculations were made, an appeal could follow.

This latest legal challenge appears to stem from the lack of clarity in last year’s WSIB Appeals Tribunal decision. While the tribunal said Thistle was owed 15 years in lost wages, the period from 2007 when he resigned to when he could have retired in 2022, it didn’t set out the exact amount Thistle was due.

After taking nine months to calculate how much he was owed, WSIB determined it was $630,000.

Former Toronto police officer Ralph Thistle has spent the past several years living in a rural cabin that has no running water as he continues to recover from work-related PTSD. (Greg Bruce/CBC News)

Meaghan Gray, the manager of corporate communications for TPS, told CBC News in an emailed statement the legal notice the service has filed doesn’t mean a formal appeal will necessarily follow.

“To be clear, the Toronto Police Service has not advised Mr. Thistle that we are pursuing an appeal,” the statement reads.

“As a matter of diligence, as we do in many cases, the service has filed a routine, technical response to the WSIB decision. This process permits the service to receive disclosure in order for us to properly understand the implications to the organization.”

Gray also says mental health supports are available to both current and former Toronto police officers.

$630K earmarked for family, running water

But Thistle says the potential for yet another battle with his former employer is leaving him worried about his future and those of his two daughters.

“The money’s going to my children because they suffered immeasurably because I was a police officer,” he said. 

“This is my way to say, as a father, ‘I will protect you because when I was so unwell under the command of Toronto police, I wasn’t a father or a husband. Because I was so sick with PTSD.'”

Some of the money is also earmarked to help Thistle improve his own quality of life.

For the past six years, he’s been living in a small 150-year-old cabin near Mt. Forest, Ont. with his service dog, Rupert. The cabin has no running water.

Thistle didn’t have the money to pay for a well and plumbing. His $630,000 compensation was going to help change that. 

He says the uncertainty of what may play out next is terrifying.

“It’s triggered the nightmares again. Three o’clock in the morning. I walk from window to window in my cabin looking outside, expecting Toronto police to come for me,” he said.

“They’ve come and they’ve come back with a vengeance. And it’s crushing my family emotionally.” 

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