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

Alice Munro among Nobel Prize winners urging Trudeau to deny oilsands project

Alberta premier says Teck’s Frontier mine would create 7,500 jobs, $70 billion in government revenue

Unrelated occupancy limits creating divisions in Saanich

Gordon Head Residents’ Association wants to see conditions to hold landlords accountable

Oak Bay cyclist runner-up in Spanish stage race

Adam de Vos on podium amongst World Tour best in Spain

Saanich Police respond to petition for new police agency on Lindsay Buziak murder case

Petition asks Public Safety Minister to to help find justice for slain realtor

Greater Victoria has Canada’s sixth-highest ‘moving penalty’

Disparity between vacant/occupied units incentivizes renovictions and reduces mobility, researcher says

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

UPDATE: Lockdown lifted at Nanaimo high school following threats

Nearby elementary school was in hold-and-secure

Trudeau: Time for blockades to end and Indigenous leaders to work with government

Prime minister says situation in Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute is ‘unacceptable and untenable’

POLL: Do you support the proposed changes for ICBC?

Tuesday’s provincial budget predicted a shift from shortfall to surplus in wake… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

RCMP clarifies stance on removing officers from Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

Police say will remove officers only if hereditary chiefs keep road open to pipeline workers

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Most Read