Forced to take early retirement, this police officer had no support after seeing a colleague murdered

Forced to take early retirement, this police officer had no support after seeing a colleague murdered
Forced to take early retirement, this police officer had no support after seeing a colleague murdered

As part of a series of reports on the mental health of police officers, The newspaper spoke with dozens of experts and agents in addition to reviewing several dozen documents, including around forty requests for access to information. An observation emerges: it has never been so difficult to be a police officer.

“How can I carry out an armed intervention if I am no longer able to go to the grocery store?” This is the question that led a Longueuil police officer to retire prematurely, 15 years after being involved in a fatal shooting after which she says she had no support.

Isabel Ste-Marie always wanted to be a police officer. Her dream finally came true in 1993 when she was hired in Brossard. Over time, she has experienced her share of significant events. But one day in March 2007 was particularly traumatic for the patroller.

She and her partner were the first to arrive on the scene of a shooting which cost the life of a colleague from Laval, who was intervening on her territory as part of an investigation into a trafficking network. Daniel Tessier, 42, was shot in the head.

It was Isabel Ste-Marie who announced the death to her colleagues, after accompanying him to the hospital and watching over the body while waiting for what happened next.

A day like any other

When she was finally released, she returned to the station to find… no one there. No supervisor or colleague was waiting for him, no debriefing was not planned.

“It was a day like any other, you have to believe,” she remembers with difficulty.

In the evening, she returned to work, as per her schedule. She was never told to go home and she intervened in a general fight.

At this point in the interview, Isabel Ste-Marie takes a long pause and stares into space. His eyes are sad, his lips tremble. Despite the passage of time, the pain is still very strong for the one who once had so much passion for her profession.

Chantal Poirier / JdeM

“After a few days and a lot of pressure from us, the bosses ended up giving us a kind of debriefing. The fact that we had to fight for it made us feel like nothing.”

Over the next few years, Isabel Ste-Marie began experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic shock, although she didn’t know it at the time. As soon as she spoke to a person, their first name remained engraved in her memory.

“It was piling up and I couldn’t leave work at work,” she says.

The Longueuil police officer also experienced a lot of anxiety, which sometimes resulted in panic attacks during her shifts. Towards the end, she dreaded the tough calls; if she wasn’t nearby, she kept a low profile and let others intervene.

“That was so far from my personality,” she said. I’m an action girl, I like it when things move.”

An early retirement

She therefore requested a transfer to criminal intelligence, where she worked for six years. But the demons of the past still ended up catching up with her.

“I was fixated on the toilet,” she explains. I was always afraid of coming across a hanged person when I opened a cabin.”

Despite therapy and time off work, the pain remained too severe and Isabel Ste-Marie had to leave the police force earlier than she would have liked.

“I am convinced that if I had been properly taken care of after the fatal shooting, I could have had the great career I dreamed of,” she laments.

Last October, her symptoms worsened and she was experiencing dark thoughts. So she went to Maison La Vigile, a center for emergency workers located in Quebec (see other text).

“It absolutely saved my life,” she said.

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