Dec 22 2015
VICTORIA - The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board is asking the public not to rush to judgment or speculate as the RCMP investigates allegations against the chief constable.
Police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe announced last week that RCMP Chief Supt. Sean Bourrie will lead two Police Act investigations into eight breach-of-trust allegations against Chief Const. Frank Elsner, who has stepped aside and is on paid leave.
Elsner is alleged to have contacted a witness during an internal investigation and provided misleading information to an investigator.
Lowe has said Elsner is also accused of workplace harassment by four employees of the Victoria Police Department.
Earlier this month, Elsner apologized and said he was "truly sorry and humiliated'' after a police-board investigation found Twitter messages he'd sent to another officer's wife were inappropriate.
Following an in-camera meeting on Monday, the board asked the public on Tuesday to allow the investigation to proceed and to respect "the interests of those directly affected.''
The board has referred questions and clarifications to Lowe's office and a public-relations firm that says on its website it specializes in "crisis communications and government relations.''
Police board co-chairwoman and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said deputy chief Del Manak will immediately become acting chief.
"It's tragic,'' Desjardins said. "I know the community is concerned. I know there are members of that police department who are hurting.''
A notice for investigation issued by Lowe alleges Elsner provided misleading information to an investigator and contacted a witnesses during an internal investigation, including the officer whose wife the chief had messaged over Twitter.
"I think the commissioner described that he feels these allegations are extremely serious,'' said deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods in an interview. "That's the way we are treating it.''
Elsner has not been available for comment. He apologized on Dec. 6 after a police-board investigation found Twitter messages he'd sent to another officer's wife were inappropriate.
Lowe said in a statement that he received more information from Victoria's police union about four employees alleging workplace harassment by the chief related to ongoing conduct starting in early 2014.
In addition to asking that the chief's conduct be investigated by the RCMP, Lowe has asked retired judges Carol Baird Ellan and Ian Pitfield to look into the separate allegations and decide whether misconduct is involved.
Lowe set out five aspects in his order for launching an external investigation against Elsner, saying that if substantiated, they would constitute misconduct.
He said that could mean Elsner engaged with the spouse of an officer under his command, provided misleading information to an investigator and contacted a witness during an internal investigation.
Woods said the decision to proceed with the internal investigation includes allegations that Elsner contacted a Victoria police officer about his wife and provided the officer with information that convinced him a further investigation was not required.
"Information provided later on in the internal investigation report suggested that the chief constable provided misleading information to his member that contributed to him making the decision not to ask for an investigation,'' said Woods.