When Captain Dave Fontneau of the Lake Elsinore Sheriff’s Station told me he was leaving the force, I think “ugh” was my response.
“Shoot, all that time developing a good working relationship and now I have to start over,” is what first crossed my mind.
But there was more to it. I have watched the 30-year law enforcement veteran turn out for city council meetings, study sessions, community events and fundraisers over my last year and half with Patch. It didn’t matter if the occasion was one hour long or five. The captain didn’t check his watch or make a beeline for the exit afterward. Instead, he always showed himself to be a good ambassador for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and stayed back to chat with residents, officials and reporters alike.
I witnessed that same demeanor when he was working in the field under stressful situations. I remember one late night in particular. It was a shooting at Four Corners and there was Captain Fontneau in a huddle with detectives.
“Hi Toni, how are you tonight,” I remember him saying. “We’ll have a statement for you just as soon as possible.”
That diplomacy carried over in phone conversations too, like the time he called to tell me he wasn’t thrilled with a budget story I had written about the department. He didn’t raise his voice, he didn’t get upset, but he got his point across.
And while violent crimes have continued to go down in Lake Elsinore and Wildomar in the recent years under his command, Captain Fontneau would only say that he hoped the numbers would get better.
The captain preached community policing, and he walked to the talk. He told me he believed that building community trust was one of the most important aspects of the job.
“We need the community to be our eyes and ears,” he said on many occasions. “We have to trust each other.”
For my part, I trusted the captain ... and I think he trusted me. I will miss his service.
His replacement takes over July 12. Her name is Captain Shelley Kennedy-Smith, a 26-year law enforcement veteran. I had the privilege of meeting her during a recent Lake Elsinore City Council meeting. With a big smile, she reached out to shake my hand and told me to call anytime.
According to a released statement from Sheriff Stan Sniff, "Captain Kennedy-Smith has worked in varied assignments within the Department including patrol, jail, courts, personnel, and administration. She has been successful at each and every one of them. The experience she has gained will serve her well at her new assignment."
Captain Kennedy-Smith has a long resume that even includes time spent at the Lake Elsinore Station as a lieutenant. I look forward to seeing her in the community.