Winnipeg police officers won't face charges in Tina Fontaine case
One officer suspended without pay, while other officer remains on administrative leave
Family members of Tina Fontaine are reeling from news that two Winnipeg police officers who saw and spoke with the 15-year-old girl not long before she disappeared, but let her go, will not face charges.
The Winnipeg Police Service launched an internal investigation last fall after discovering that the two officers came across Fontaine during a traffic stop on Aug. 8, 2014 — a week after she had been reported missing — but did not take her into custody.
The officers apprehended the driver of a vehicle that Fontaine was in, but let the missing teen go.
- Tina Fontaine died because police, CFS failed her, family says
- Fontaine last seen leaving with man in West End, says friend
- AFN wants probe into police handling of Tina Fontaine
- Tina Fontaine's family receives racist hate mail
Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River on Aug. 17. Her death is being investigated as a homicide but no arrests have been announced to date.
The Manitoba Crown prosecutor's office reviewed the results of the internal investigation and told the police force in December that it would not proceed with charges under the Criminal Code or the Child and Family Services Act, police said in a news release issued late Tuesday afternoon.
The news shocked Thelma Favel, who was Fontaine's great-aunt and caregiver for much of her short life.
"I just don't understand," Favel told CBC News from her home in the Sagkeeng First Nation.
"If it was a different race, would they do something different?"
The police service says it has launched disciplinary proceedings against the officers and suspended one of them without pay. The other officer remains on paid administrative leave.
In both cases, their statuses are "pending the outcome with the discipline process," according to the news release..
However, Favel said she believes the two officers should be charged.
"She could still be alive if they did their job," she said, sobbing. "She was red-flagged already as missing, and they just let her go."
Suspension without pay a rare move
The Winnipeg Police Association, which represents members of the service, says it is rare to suspend an officer without pay.
George Van Mackelbergh, the union's vice-president, said officials will have a better sense of how they can help the two members after they've seen the results of the disciplinary proceedings.
"A lot of it is going to depend on disclosure, and our membership knows that," he said.
"I mean, these gentlemen are good members of the association. They haven't done anything criminally wrong; the Crown didn't even seek to charge them under the Child Protection Act. So people have to understand that this is regulatory and internal."
Van Mackelbergh said it will ultimately be up to police Chief Devon Clunis to make a recommendation to the city on whether the suspended officer should be dismissed from the force.
The final decision would be made by a panel led by the city's chief administrative officer, he added.
"It doesn't happen often. But again, in a case like this, a lot of this is on the chief," Van Mackelbergh said.
"I don't know what his opinion is yet. I don't know what he is basing his decision [on], but we will receive disclosure and I am sure we will get to the bottom of what his rationale is."