May 18, 2017 3:28 pm

Embattled Victoria police chief steps down from his position

Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner

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The embattled Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner has stepped down from his position following a number of allegations of misconduct that happened in 2015.

The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board made the announcement Thursday morning saying Elsner “will no longer receive payment of his salary, or other employment benefits as provided for under his employment contract.”

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Elsner, who has been Chief Constable for the VicPD since 2014, came under fire in December 2015 after coming forward to apologize for inappropriate private messages on Twitter to the wife of a subordinate officer. He had his conduct reviewed by the Police Board in an internal investigation overseen by an outside lawyer. The probe into the matter concluded and the board determined they still had full confidence in the chief’s leadership and was given a formal reprimand.

Little more than a week later, Elsner voluntarily stepped aside as police chief after another investigation was launched by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPPC). The investigation was sparked by the chief’s admissions that he was “truly sorry and humiliated” for taking part in inappropriate social media exchanges with the wife of one of his officers.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: 

A notice for investigation issued by complaint commissioner Stan Lowe alleged Elsner provided misleading information to an investigator and contacted a witness during an internal investigation, including the officer whose wife the chief had messaged over Twitter. Elsner allegedly provided the officer with information that convinced him no further investigation into the matter was required, said the report.

The member’s wife was reportedly a police officer in a neighbouring jurisdiction.

Lowe said in a statement at the time that he received more information from Victoria’s police union, including allegations by four employees of workplace harassment starting in early 2014.

The union had already called for Elsner to be removed from his job for the “betrayal” of trust of his officers.

Questioning the process

In March 2016, Elsner filed documents claiming Lowe had no authority to order the investigation, which was overseen by RCMP Chief Supt. Sean Bourrie, into his conduct. In his petition Elsner raised concerns over Bourrie heading the investigation saying, “with respect, his rank is not equivalent to or higher than mine.” He went on to say that, “Chief Superintendent Bourrie does not have the necessary understanding and experience with respect to the duties of a municipal chief.”

Elsner also claimed that he agreed to the internal investigation with the understanding that the matter would remain “private and confidential.” He said he was never told the police complaint commissioner had imposed any conditions on the internal investigation.

New Allegations

The petition was still in the courts when Elsner was suspended by the OPCC in April 2016. The suspension occurred after new information of further allegations involving Elnser was found by the OPCC, spurring two separate investigations.

“The new information arises from recent interviews with witnesses, as well as information obtained from the information technology systems at the Victoria Police Department,” reads the 2016 commissioner’s statement.

READ MORE: Investigation of Victoria police chief extended 

The allegations, if substantiated, would involve three separate disciplinary breaches of public trust: one allegation of deceit and two allegations of discreditable conduct.

The commissioner determined that it is in the public interest that the new allegations should be investigated by an external police force and chose the RCMP to look into the matter.

In March 2017, two retired judges determined there was enough evidence for allegations of misconduct against Victoria’s suspended police chief to hold disciplinary hearings.

Since Elsner has resigned his position, the VicPD Board will now be taking steps to find his replacement.

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