Two Toronto police officers are facing disciplinary charges of misconduct over allegations that they failed to search properly for Tess Richey, a woman who went missing in the Gay Village and was later found dead by her mother.
Ms. Richey’s death last fall was one of a string of tragic events that rattled the city’s LGBTQ community and further strained relations with the Toronto Police Service. A man has since been charged with murdering her.
According to details outlined in a notice of disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, Constables Michael Jones and Alan McCullough have been charged under the Police Services Act. They each face one count of insubordination and one count of neglect of duty.
The two officers worked at 51 Division, the precinct that covers the Village area.
Ms. Richey’s family reported her missing after the 22-year-old and a friend left a Church Street bar, Crews & Tangos. The friend last saw her around 3 a.m. on Nov. 25.
The afternoon of Nov. 26, Constable Jones and Constable McCullough were doing uniformed patrol when, around 3:45 p.m., they received a call to check an address in the Village.
“While on scene, you learned that this location was the last known location where T.R. had been seen,” the notice said.
“You did not search the adjoining property or immediate area thoroughly. You did not conduct a canvass of the neighbours. You failed to notify a supervisory officer of all of the particulars.”
It was Ms. Richey’s mother, Christine Hermeston, who had travelled from North Bay, who eventually found her daughter’s body three days later, by an external stairwell next to a house under renovation, two blocks from Crews & Tangos.
Ms. Richey’s body was 40 metres from the address where the two officers had been dispatched, the notice said.
Constable McCullough is a 17-year veteran who got in trouble a decade ago after he purchased online a gun barrel that was classified as a prohibited device. He pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct and lost 14 days of pay.
The head of the police union said he was surprised that the latest charges were filed. He said Constable Jones and Constable McCullough were not assigned to the broader missing-person investigation but only asked to do a specific task.
“These officers did their job. They were assigned to a check-address call, which they did. They put in the appropriate paperwork,” Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said in an interview.
Ms. Hermeston didn’t reply to a request for comments, but wrote on her Facebook page “What about the other six?” in what appeared to be a reference to other officers.
“It was obvious that something had gone terribly wrong when my mom had to drive from North Bay to Toronto to find our beloved Tessie in the same area she was reported missing in,” one of Ms. Richey’s sisters Varina said in a statement.
She praised homicide detectives who investigated Ms. Richey’s slaying and added that “hopefully this new development will prevent another family having to go through what ours did.”
If found guilty, the two officers could face penalties ranging from a reprimand to losing up to three weeks in pay, Mr. McCormack said.
Homicide investigators say Ms. Richey was strangled to death. Kalen Schlatter, 21, was arrested in February and is now charged with first-degree murder.
Ms. Richey’s death came at the same time Toronto police was criticized for its handling of the case of Alloura Wells, a transgender woman, found dead in August but only identified in November. The LGBTQ community was also upset about a series of unsolved disappearances for which Bruce McArthur was eventually charged with eight counts of murder.
Chief Mark Saunders referred the case to to the service’s Professional Standards Unit in December.