The Victoria Police Department’s incoming police chief has been dreaming about living on the West Coast for 30 years.
But the move will come a little sooner than expected for Frank Elsner, who has fond memories of Vancouver Island, where he spent his formative years after high school.
“This is something I never thought would be possible,” said Elsner, current chief of the Greater Sudbury Police Service. “My heart and passion has always been in British Columbia, and we were going to move there on my retirement anyways.”
Elsner’s family immigrated to Vancouver from Germany in the 1960s, before settling in the Okanagan. He spent time in Parksville, Nanaimo and Victoria before joining the RCMP as a reserve constable, eventually moving east for the Ontario Provincial Police in the mid-1980s.
And while he officially takes the reins from outgoing VicPD Chief Jamie Graham Dec. 31, he’s already been in near-daily communication with both Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins to discuss their ongoing policing contract negotiations and explore the most prevalent issues for both municipalities.
“In Ontario, regionalization is the norm, not the exception. So I understand what’s good about it, but I understand the pitfalls as well. But I think my greatest strength I bring with me is I really believe in partnerships. We just can’t go it alone. I’m very passionate about working with the community, and that’s what we’ve done here (in Sudbury).”
Elsner pointed to one of Sudbury’s low-income housing complexes where police, health officials, employment counsellors and others set up a “one-stop shop” within the building several years ago. Calls for service have since dropped from six times per shift to about twice a month, he said.
“We got in there and mobilized the people of that community,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of crime prevention and stopping something before it happens.”
Elsner was widely reported as VicPD’s next police chief in mid-September, but a provincial delay in appointing new Victoria police board members stalled the process.
The leaked announcement was awkward for Elsner, who hadn’t yet told his Sudbury colleagues about his intentions.
“My sister who lives in Oliver, called me to say I’d been appointed chief. And my wife and I hadn’t even started making plans yet. That night, my daughters’ coach was saying if we were going to move, she might have to get cut from her sports team.”
With the hiring hiccups now behind him, Elsner is focusing on finding a new house and local school for his 12-year-old daughter.
“I didn’t own a pair of winter boots or jacket when I moved (to Ontario),” he said. “I think I’m going to leave the boots at the airport when I move home.”
By the numbers:
Greater Sudbury Police Service:
265 police officers
Population coverage: 160,274 residents
Geographic area: 3,627 sq. kilometres
Victoria Police Department:
244 police officers
Population coverage: 96,226 residents
Geographic area: 27 sq. kilometres