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A Quebec provincial police officer told a coroner’s inquest on Monday that there isn’t enough collaboration between police and the mental health system on matters of public safety.

Charles Côté said that often, when he’s tried to get basic information about a patient for public security purposes, he’s rebuffed by health workers who cite confidentiality.

Mr. Côté testified at the inquiry examining the killing of Sergeant Maureen Breau, 42, who was stabbed to death with a kitchen knife on March 27, 2023, by Isaac Brouillard Lessard, a man with a history of mental health issues. Mr. Brouillard Lessard, 35, was shot dead by police moments after the attack in Louiseville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

“At this point, we’re fighting to hold up a system that doesn’t work very well, this is the reality in Quebec,” Mr. Côté said. He held back tears and said, “I’m here for Maureen.”

Mr. Côté responded to a 911 call at Mr. Brouillard Lessard’s apartment on Dec. 30, 2022, days after he had moved to Louiseville. He had called police after a search for a lost cat turned into an altercation between himself and a neighbour.

The incident ended with apologies and without charge, but Mr. Côté filed an internal bulletin after learning from a provincial police databank that Mr. Brouillard Lessard was being followed by the province’s mental health board.

Mr. Côté said he learned from one health-care worker that Mr. Brouillard Lessard had a history of violence against employees of the health system. But Mr. Côté said other workers who had been assigned to Mr. Brouillard Lessard’s case refused to speak about him.

In his internal bulletin, Mr. Côté urged other officers to “act with caution” with Mr. Brouillard Lessard. The police advisory was circulated by e-mail and was still posted on a bulletin board in the officer’s briefing room when Sgt. Breau was killed a few months later.

Mr. Côté was one of several police officers who had interacted with Mr. Brouillard Lessard who will testify in the coming days.

On Jan. 30, his partner, Gabriel Menard, told the inquiry that officers often face a “wall” when trying to get information about mental health cases.

Mr. Menard had run into Mr. Brouillard Lessard on Dec. 30, 2022 – before Mr. Côté arrived at the apartment – when the man approached him about help finding his cat.

Also Monday, the inquiry heard from Elodie Levesque, a patrol officer who had visited Mr. Brouillard Lessard three days prior to the stabbing, after the man’s parents had called police hoping to have him forcibly hospitalized because of his deteriorating mental health. He had been sending threatening texts and making phone calls to his mother and other family members.

Ms. Levesque said while police noted a katana-style sword and another knife in his apartment on the March 24, 2023, visit, they did not feel they had any reason to arrest Mr. Brouillard Lessard despite his parents’ concerns.

Several officers are scheduled to testify this week, including Sgt. Breau’s three colleagues who were with her the night she was killed; one of the three officers was seriously injured.

Police had four calls involving Mr. Brouillard Lessard between December, 2022, and March 27, 2023, when they went to arrest him on charges of uttering threats and violating probation.

The inquiry has previously heard that Mr. Brouillard Lessard had been found not criminally responsible five times for offences in 2014 and 2018. He had also spent a year at a Montreal psychiatric hospital and been followed by the province’s mental health review board – the Commission d’examen des troubles mentaux – since 2014.

Last month, Quebec workplace health and safety inspectors told the inquiry that officers didn’t plan properly before attempting to arrest Mr. Brouillard Lessard.

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