Victoria police chief suspended amid new allegations of deceit, misconduct
Published Friday, April 29, 2016 11:30AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, April 29, 2016 7:03PM PDT
Victoria’s embattled top cop has been suspended from his job amid an ongoing investigation into his alleged conduct.
A retired judge appointed to oversee the case has ordered Police Chief Const. Frank Elsner be suspended immediately following allegations he tried to erase evidence and coerce others to destroy data related to the external probe.
Elsner had previously been placed on paid administrative leave in December when he admitted to “inappropriate” social media exchanges with the wife of a subordinate officer.
The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, co-chaired by mayors Lisa Helps and Barb Desjardins, was made aware of the suspension order Friday and will meet next week to "discuss the implications," a spokeswoman said.
The suspension comes after investigators came forward with new information regarding the Elsner probe on April 21 and 22, according to Police Complaint Commissioner Stan T. Lowe.
“The information includes allegations that Chief Constable Elsner attempted to inappropriately influence potential witnesses during the internal investigation in 2015 and during the current ongoing public-trust investigations,” Lowe wrote.
That includes an allegation Elsner “made a request to a potential witness to destroy electronic data” related to the ongoing external investigation.
“In addition, the information supports an allegation that Chief Constable Elsner obtained access to the Victoria Police information system and may have deleted or attempted to delete information relevant to the internal investigation in 2015,” said Lowe.
The allegations constitute deceit and discreditable conduct under the Police Act and will be investigated by RCMP Chief Supt. Sean Bourrie, who is also heading up the other external investigations.
Elsner's lawyer released a statement in response to the new allegations saying her client would not be commenting.
"Even in the face of a detailed release such as the one issued by the OPCC, neither the chief or his council feel they should be commenting while there is an active investigation," said Janet Winteringham. "So until such time as the investigation concludes neither the chief or council will be commenting."
Retired judge Ian H. Pitfield has been appointed to oversee discipline in the new investigations.
Last month, Elsner filed a petition to try to stop the external investigation launched by the OPCC, saying in a sworn affidavit he felt the probe has “irreparably tarnished” and effectively ended his policing career.
He said he only consented to an initial internal probe because he was assured it would be kept confidential, and that the external investigation amounts to an abuse of process.
Lowe said in a report last December that the external probe was necessary after Elsner allegedly gave misleading information and contacted witnesses despite being told not to during the course of the internal investigation.
None of the allegations involving Elsner have been tested or proven in court.
Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner apologizes for sending 'inappropriate' messages.