Elsner investigation will head to discipline proceedings

Judges have found sufficient evidence in eight of the 11 allegations of misconduct against suspended Victoria police chief

A pair of retired judges reviewing the investigation into the behaviour of suspended Victoria police chief Frank Elsner have determined nearly all of the 11 allegations of misconduct will head to a discipline proceeding within the next month.

Last month, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) submitted its final report to the judges appointed to act as the discipline authorities for the matter. Now the judges have found there’s sufficient evidence to send six allegations of discreditable conduct to a pair of discipline proceedings, along with one allegation of inappropriate use of department equipment and one allegation of deceit.

The drama began in August 2015 when the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board launched an internal investigation after a concern was brought to their attention regarding private Twitter messages exchanged between Elsner and the wife (a female officer from the Saanich Police Department) of an officer under his command. An independent lawyer investigated the matter and concluded there was no inappropriate relationship, but there was an inappropriate use of direct messaging and social media.

Elsner apologized for his behaviour and the board voted to keep him on as chief while imposing undisclosed discipline. But a report on the investigation was also sent to the OPCC, which ordered two public trust investigations — one of them involving allegations of workplace harassment.

A third investigation was later ordered when new allegations of misconduct surfaced of Elsner trying to interfere with the internal investigation.

According to a media statement released by the OPCC Thursday, retired judge Carol Baird Ellan found sufficient evidence for the Twitter matter to proceed to a discipline proceeding, along with allegations of Elsner providing misleading information to a member under his command and an investigator, using police equipment and/or facilities for purposes unrelated to his duties and attempting to procure the making of an oral or written statement from a potential witness, knowing the statement was false or misleading.

Retired judge Ian Pitfield also determined there was enough evidence on allegations that Elsner engaged in unwanted physical contact with female staff at the police department, made unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature and inappropriate comments that could be seen to objectify female staff members, and leered and inappropriately stared at female staff members.

Ellan, however, found there was not sufficient evidence for allegations that Elsner contacted witnesses during the course of an internal investigation, made a request to destroy electronic data related to an ongoing external investigation or sought access to a Victoria police server, conducting various searches and erasing or attempting to erase emails during the course of an ongoing investigation.

Elsner, who remains suspended with pay, has tried to quash the investigations and filed a petition last March in B.C. Supreme Court that seeks a number of orders. The petition was heard by the chief justice in November, but a decision has yet to be made. Another petition was filed at the end of February, along with an affidavit in which Elsner stated he wants to resign due to health reasons.

The discipline proceeding must be held within 40 business days following the submission of the final investigation report, but a date has yet to be scheduled.