Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis called a press conference this morning and announced the WPS has initiated an internal investigation into the conduct of two (2) Patrol Officer’s who were believed to have had contact with Tina Fontaine on August 8, 2014.
Fontaine disappeared approximately twenty-four (24) hours later and was never seen alive again.
Her body was pulled from the Red River on August 17, 2014.
Chief Clunis made the following statement;
“As you are all aware, the Winnipeg Police Service Homicide Unit is actively investigating the murder of Tina Fontaine. Tina Fontaine was reported missing on July 31, the Homicide Investigation commenced August 17.”
“Now during the course of the investigation it was discovered that two members of the Police Service had contact with her on August 8th approximately twenty-four hours before her final disappearance. I was informed of this discovery on September 3rd and immediately directed the Professional Standards Unit to commence an investigation. The murder investigation, as well as the internal investigation into the conduct of our officers, are both currently ongoing. During the interim the two officers have been reassigned to non-operational duties.”
In order to put the Police involvement in this case into perspective we have to fully examine the time line associated to Tina Fontaine’s disappearance.
July 31, 2014 – Fontaine reported missing
- Media reports indicate Fontaine spent Aug 1 – 5 with her Aunt Lana Fontaine.
August 5, 2014 – Fontaine taken into care of CFS with WPS assistance.
- Fontaine’s movements are unclear and her whereabouts are unknown shortly after this time.
August 8, 2014
- 2:30 am – Fontaine believed to attend Macdonald Youth Services with a friend to get a bite to eat and use the bathroom. Fontaine declines to provide her name to staff or stay at the center.
- 3:00 am – Police pull over vehicle being operated by an impaired driver, Fontaine is a passenger. It appears that Fontaine was released and not taken into custody or care.
- 8:00 pm – Paramedics respond to a call and locate Fontaine passed out in an alley near Ellice Ave. Fontaine is taken to the Hospital, treated and turned over to the care of CFS. Fontaine subsequently leaves CFS care and goes on the run once again. Police are notified.
- Information in the media suggests that some time later Fontaine was in the Ellice Ave area where she was approached by a man who offered her money in exchange for a sex act. Fontaine allegedly accepted the offer and was never seen alive again.
August 13, 2014 – Police release missing person bulletin on Fontaine.
August 17, 2014 – Fontaine’s body pulled from the Red River.
September 3, 2013 – Clunis is informed of Police contact with Fontaine on August 8 and orders an internal investigation.
September 25, 2013 – Clunis holds press conference and released details of the internal investigation.
The question that’s being asked is, “Why would Police let Tina Fontaine go when they had her in their custody on August 8th?”
When Police locate a missing person they are duty bound to take them into their care and custody. That obligation exponentially increases when the missing person is a young at risk female.
If the Officers checked Fontaine on the Police computer and learned she was a missing person they should have taken her into their care and contacted the person or agency of responsibility listed in the missing persons report.
During my career in Law Enforcement I literally located dozens, if not hundreds of missing persons and always followed the these protocols and procedures.
A missing persons call is one of the easiest calls a Police Officer can take. You locate the missing person, read the call history, determine who is responsible for the missing person and turn the person over.
Police work doesn’t get easier than that.
There is no excuse for failing to follow these simple steps.
The Rush to Judgement
Before we act as Judge, Jury and Executioners we should at least acknowledge that other possibilities exist. For example;
- Fontaine could have either refused to provide her identity or provided a false identity to Police. If she provided a false identity the Police may have checked her name on the computer with negative results. People often give Police Officers with false names to avoid arrest or detention. If that’s the case, it’s possible the Police may have simply sent Fontaine on her way oblivious of her true identity.
- If Fontaine refused to give her name the Police may have simply sent her on her way. After all, they had their hands full with an impaired driver and Fontaine may have appeared to be the age of consent. Regardless, they may have felt they were on shaky grounds detaining her any longer than they already had.
Rest assured of one thing, the internal investigation will uncover the truth. If the Officers entered Fontaine’s name into their computer the Professional Standards Unit will already have documentary evidence confirming the query.
The question around the query raises other possibilities.
- Was Fontaine properly entered into the CPIC system?
- Was CPIC operating at the time of the traffic stop?
- Was the query properly entered by the Officers?
- Were the results of the query properly interpreted by the Officers?
Police advise the Officer’s in question were a Field Training Officer and a Recruit in training. Field Training Officers are generally well versed in Police procedures and policies. Recruits in training are not so well versed and can be prone to make mistakes.
Did the Rookie Officer make the query?
Did the Officers learn Fontaine’s true identity?
Was it accident, omission, error, a systemic issue or neglect?
These questions will be answered by the internal investigation.
As I watch the media reports I’m not amused by the blame game that’s starting shape the Fontaine case.
Just how far do we want to go as we assess blame on the two WPS Officers at the center of the controversy.
Do you want to blame them for Tina’s death?
If you do, please look at the time line again and ask yourself if that’s really fair.
The fact is Tina Fontaine was in the safe and secure custody of CFS long after the two (2) WPS Officers had contact with her on August 8th.
The very same agency the Officers would likely have turned Fontaine over to once they identified her as a missing person.
The very same agency the troubled teen had absolutely no problem running away from.
At worst, the Police Officers may have neglected their duty and obligation to take a young at risk girl into their care. If that turns out to be the case then they should suffer some sort of consequence.
That error certainly didn’t result in Tina’s death.
Tina Fontaine was killed by a very bad person.
Let’s not forget that.