Former Victoria police chief constable Frank Elsner. News file photo

Discipline ruling upheld for ex-Victoria police chief Frank Elsner

Eight acts of misconduct and accompanying discipline measures ‘unprecedented in Canadian policing’

A review of the two investigations and subsequent disciplinary proceedings involving former Victoria Police Chief Const. Frank Elsner found the actions taken against the former chief were reasonable and appropriate.

But the report questioned the discipline process, stating discipline authorities, in cases like this, should not be local mayors as they do not have the expertise needed.

RELATED: Disciplinary hearing for former Victoria chief begins today

“It is a most serious event when a chief constable becomes the subject of a Police Act investigation because they occupy such a high position of public trust in the community and the justice system,” said the Office of Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) in a statement released late Wednesday morning. “It makes little sense to entrust the responsibilities of discipline authority to a person who lacks the requisite training and experience, and who may have little to no understanding of the complexities of the police discipline system.”

Commissioner Stan Lowe also noted that since the chair of a municipal police board is also the mayor of the municipality, there is an inherent conflict of interest, especially in regards to proceedings that could impact the municipality’s budget.

In this case, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins co-chaired the administration of the internal discipline process.

After reviewing the matter, Lowe formally recommended the government amend the Police Act so when a misconduct matter involving a chief constable or deputy chief constable requires a discipline authority, that authority should be a retired judge, not a mayor.

RELATED: Frank Elsner resigns from Victoria Police Department

Elsner quit the force in May 2017, after being suspended and following a dispute over the handling of discoveries that he exchanged “salacious and sexually charged” Twitter messages with the wife of a subordinate officer.

An internal investigation by the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board was launched in August 2015 after the situation was brought to light. The female officer was a member of the Saanich Police Department, while her husband was under Elsner’s command in Victoria.

Elsner apologized for his behaviour and the police board voted to keep him on as chief, while imposing disciplinary measures.

RELATED: Police watchdog appealing decision for Elsner Twitter investigation

According to a past report, the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board previously had not provided the OPCC with records of allegations of workplace harassment involving Elsner, even though the matter surfaced during an internal investigation launched by the police board.

A member of the Victoria police union executive brought the allegation to the attention of the OPCC.

The allegations pertain to unwanted physical contact with female staff at the police department, making unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature and inappropriate comments that could be seen to objectify female staff members.

A report on the investigation was eventually sent to the OPCC, which ordered two public trust investigations. The findings of which were released Wednesday.

The report revealed claims that Elsner pressed his groin against one officer’s buttocks and during a dinner in 2015 approached another female officer in the hallway at VicPD headquarters and held her by both arms with her back against or close to a wall. Inappropriate comments were also made towards one of the women during training exercises.

In his report, Lowe noted “for women to feel safe and valued in policing, it is especially crucial that the most senior officers conduct themselves with integrity and respect … His conduct caused emotional harm and violated the dignity of the affected parties, the gravity of which is amplified by his position of power and the importance of the office held by a chief constable.”

Elsner was found to have committed a total of eight acts of misconduct under the Police Act.

Some of the acts stemmed from the relationship he had with a subordinate’s wife and the actions he took to cover up that misconduct.

The retired judges, acting as discipline authorities in the investigations, imposed a number of punishments on Elsner including a 30-day suspension, demotion in rank to constable, training in ethical standards, training for harassment and sensitivity, and ultimately dismissal from policing. Those disciplines will be recorded on his service record as he had already quit when the investigations were completed.

According to Lowe, the findings and accompanying discipline measures are unprecedented in Canadian policing.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

katie.e@blackpress.ca

Frank ElsnerVictoria Police Department

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police arrest suspect in two daytime robberies

A robber told businesses he had a weapon and demanded cash

‘We need to do better:’ VicPD responds to more parties, gatherings

Chief pleads with public to ‘think of the greater good’

Flurries fall on Malahat Monday morning

Showers expected off and on for rest of the day

What Victoria residents are looking to buy while social distancing

New search terms pop up on the Used.ca the top 100 list

Sooke businesses cope with closures in midst of COVID-19

Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce helping local business deal with pandemic

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready for COVID-19 response: Defence Minister

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Most Read