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Watchdog calls for probe into police board spending on ex-Victoria police chief

Police Complaint Commissioner says accountable and transparent review is in public interest
The 2017/2018 Annual Report released Tuesday by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner shows a recommendation for a special investigation into the spending of the Victoria Police Board in relation to the former Victoria Police Chief Const. Frank Elsner investigation. (File photo)

A special investigation into the actions of the Victoria Police Board is recommended after concerns were reported that the board allegedly used money from the police department’s budget to pay for a private media crisis consultant and continued funding of lawyers during the former Victoria Police Chief Const. Frank Elsner investigation, even after Elsner had been suspended with pay.

The recommendation comes from the 2017/2018 Annual Report released Tuesday by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner – a civilian, independent office of the legislature that oversees complaints and investigations involving municipal police in B.C. It is one of six recommendations to police boards throughout the province, and the only one directed at Victoria.

An internal investigation by the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board was launched in August 2015 after the discovery that Elsner exchanged “salacious and sexually charged” Twitter messages with the wife of a subordinate officer.

Investigations found Elsner committed a total of eight acts of misconduct under the Police Act, during his time as the chief constable of the Victoria Police Department.

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Elsner was suspended in April 2016 by one of the two retired judges appointed to act as the discipline authorities on the matter, but the police board decided to continue paying his $207,000 annual salary and legal fees.

When the complaint about the police board spending was reported, the Victoria Police Board directed the complaint to be dismissed, saying it did not relate to the general management of the VicPD as stated in the Police Act. The complainant disagreed with the board’s conclusion.

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The Police Complaint Commissioner reviewed the police board’s decision and determined that the matter fell within the scope of both the general management and general operation of the Victoria Police Department.

The Commissioner also thought that an accountable and transparent review of the allegations into the complaint was in the public interest and recommended that the director of Police Services conduct a special investigation or prepare a report on the Victoria Police Board’s actions as alleged in the complaint.

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The director of Police Services asked the Victoria Police Board to consider further action in relation to this complaint, but the matter remains outstanding.

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