It’s been well over a year, but the external police investigation into the actions of suspended Victoria police Chief Frank Elsner is finally complete, leaving two retired judges to determine the outcome.
According to deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods, the investigation was completed on Friday and the judges now have 10 business days to make a decision on whether the evidence backs any of the allegations.
There could be two potential outcomes — one is none of the allegations are substantiated, which could end the matter, or one or more of them are substantiated, which would result in the need for a disciplinary proceeding to be called within 40 business days.
“They tried to do it (the investigation) as quickly as they can and there’s been no shortage of staff and resources made available to complete it within a reasonable amount of time,” said Woods, noting resources from both the Vancouver police and the RCMP investigated the matter.
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 sent to the Office of the Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), who 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, claimng Elsner attempted to inappropriately influence potential witnesses during the internal investigation in 2015 and the current ongoing public trust investigations. It’s also alleged Elsner obtained access to the Victoria police information system and may have deleted or attempted to delete information relevant to the internal investigation.
In response, Elsner, who remains suspended with pay, has tried to quash the investigation, filing 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 last week, along with an affidavit stating Elsner wants to resign due to health reasons and was “deeply troubled” by the delays in completing the external investigation. The health issues include stress, anxiety and high blood pressure, which have worsened as the investigations are further delayed.
The investigation has been extended four times, but Woods said it’s a complex matter that had new evidence come to light throughout the process. Unless he receives notice from the court, the OPCC will continue to proceed as usual.
“We want to get to the truth of all these allegations in fairness to not only the public but also to chief Elsner,” said Woods, adding Elsner should know such investigations take time given his policing experience in Victoria and Ontario.
“I am familiar with all of the matters that have occurred while he’s chief in Victoria and generally I am aware of many matters in Ontario that have gone on for five, six, seven years before there’s an outcome so this is what happens in these matters, especially when the allegations are serious. It takes time.”
Elsner was hired as Victoria’s police chief in December 2013. Acting Chief Del Manak continues to take on the duties of chief constable.