RCMP called in to investigate Victoria police chief

VICTORIA -- RCMP and two retired judges have been called in to oversee multiple investigations into a growing social media scandal involving Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner.

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British Columbia's police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe has ordered the investigations into allegations of disciplinary breaches of public trust and discreditable conduct.

A notice for investigation issued by Lowe alleges Elsner provided misleading information to an investigator and contacted a witnesses during an internal investigation.

Lowe says he received more information last week 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.

Lowe laid out five aspects in his order for launching an external investigation against Elsner saying that, if substantiated, 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 the internal investigation.

Lowe said there is an overriding interest in going ahead with the investigations as a matter of public trust.

"The climate within the department appears to be in a state of tension and dissonance."

"The public must have confidence in the effective and efficient operation of a police department: harmony and discipline within the workplace have a direct impact on its operations."

Elsner apologized Dec. 6 after a police-board investigation found direct Twitter messages he sent to another officer's wife were inappropriate.

The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board was notified about a concern involving the chief during the summer and hired a lawyer to investigate.

Although the investigation found his use of social media was inappropriate, the eight board members met in early December and decided the chief still had their "full confidence."

The board provides civilian oversight of the Victoria Police Department.

Elsner said at the time that he was "truly sorry and humiliated" and should not have sent the messages. But he said the investigation concluded there was no inappropriate relationship between himself and the woman to whom he sent messages.

Soon after Elsner's apology, the union representing Victoria police officers called for the chief to be removed from his post after the "betrayal" of trust.

Acting union president Sgt. Glen Shiels said while the incident itself was on the low end of a breach, the fact that Elsner messaged the wife of a police officer undermines the trust of all his officers.

The member's wife is reportedly a police officer in a neighbouring jurisdiction.


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