Maureen Breau | What’s still wrong with the Sûreté du Québec

Maureen Breau | What’s still wrong with the Sûreté du Québec
Maureen Breau | What’s still wrong with the Sûreté du Québec

More than a year after the death of Sergeant Maureen Breau, during an intervention that went wrong, everything remains to be done to avoid another tragedy.


Published at 1:20 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

So, we can only be delighted to learn that Quebec will soon present a bill to better equip police officers who intervene with suspects with a history of mental disorders, as Prime Minister François Legault announced on Monday.

It goes without saying that the police should know who they are dealing with when they arrive at the home of a person found not criminally responsible (NCR) who has been released on conditions. Elementary my dear Watson.

But we need to go much further.

In light of coroner’s reports on other tragedies, it is clear that we need to fundamentally review the way we care for NCR people, as we have already argued1.

But it is also crucial to plug the numerous flaws in the organization of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) which played a sad role in the death of Maureen Breau… flaws which are still clearly visible, according to a follow-up report from the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) filed in April.

Let’s first talk about gaps in risk assessment.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, the Montreal Police Service (SPVM) has developed a grid to assess the risks of an intervention and determine the best strategies to adopt.

However, SQ patrol officers do not use this type of tool which could have changed everything.

Indeed, Maureen Breau’s assailant, Isaac Brouillard Lessard, was known to the police, who knew that he had a long knife in his home in Louiseville, where they had gone three days earlier.

When they returned to arrest him, for threatening to kill, the use of an assessment grid would have helped them establish that the level of risk was high enough to call on a tactical intervention group (GTI), better equipped.

The problem is that the territory of the SQ is vast. It sometimes takes many hours before deploying the GTIs in the region. Without having “SWAT” in all the towns, the SQ could set up intermediate intervention groups across the province in order to take charge of moderate situations more quickly.

Supervision is another chronic deficiency of the SQ.

Maureen Breau had been a supervisor for many years, although she had never received initial training for this position, despite her repeated requests. This is not an isolated case.

The worst part is that when supervisors take leave, their replacements are often chosen based on their seniority – collective agreement requires – rather than their skills.

It therefore happens that a patroller takes over from his supervisor “without having the knowledge or experience necessary to carry out this function”, deplores the CNESST, which has not observed any concrete corrective four months after having reprimanded the SQ.

Worrying.

In fact, all police officers are seriously lacking in continuing training.

However, it is not luxury. This is what allows you to be better prepared (for example, by bringing electric pulse guns) and to have the sharp reflexes to react in the heat of the moment (for example, by keeping your distance and maintaining obstacles in relation to the suspect).

The day Maureen Breau died, everything happened differently.

The police officers were surprised, which led to three normal reactions of the human brain to danger: the first police officer froze and was stabbed after knocking on the door; a second fled; Maureen Breau, for her part, rushed to the aid of her colleague. She paid for it with her life.

For the CNESST, all SQ police officers should follow training to maintain skills in police intervention (MCIP) and to respond to a disturbed mental state (REMP).

Unfortunately, REMP training, which relies on verbalization to avoid the use of force, was slowly implemented at the SQ because of internal reluctance due to culture shock.

And generally speaking, training is hampered by a lack of instructors and the obsolescence of regional training centers. To get by, why not rely on coaches in police stations, as experts suggested during the coroner’s inquest?

And why not ensure that the national school which trains new police officers uses the same terminology as that used in the continuing training of active police officers? Everyone would speak the same language…

Of course, the coroner’s report, expected next fall, will provide very useful recommendations. But until then, it is reassuring to know that the CNESST has the power to demand modifications, as long as it is not satisfied with the actions put in place by the SQ.

Let her do it in Maureen’s name.

1. Read the “Free and Dangerous” editorial

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