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Suspended Victoria police chief resigns amid investigation into tweets

Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner.

VPD photo

Victoria's suspended police chief quit Thursday amid an investigation into his sexually charged Twitter messages to the wife of a subordinate officer.

The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board said in a statement Frank Elsner resigned from his position as chief constable and will no longer receive his salary or other benefits after his suspension a year ago.

"Through his counsel, Mr. Elsner has advised that he considers his employment relationship with the police board to be at an end," said the statement. "The police board has concluded from this advice that Mr. Elsner has resigned from his position as chief constable of the Victoria Police Department."

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Elsner was not available for comment, but his Vancouver lawyer Janet Winteringham issued a brief statement.

"We confirm that Frank Elsner has elected to end his employment with the Victoria Police Board," said Winteringham's statement. "He believes it is in the best interests of the community of Victoria for him to step aside. Due to the ongoing proceedings he is unable to make any further comment at this time including any comment with respect to the timing of this decision."

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said Del Manak will continue to serve as the acting chief until the police board decides its future moves.

"It's basically business as usual as it's been for the last year-and-a-half, but chief Elsner is no longer the suspended chief, he is the former chief as of today," she said, in an interview.

Helps said taxpayers will receive an accounting of the costs associated to the investigations and legal fees involving the former suspended police chief.

Elsner apologized shortly after the public learned of an internal investigation that was looking into inappropriate messages he sent to a female member of another police force, who is also the wife of a Victoria police officer.

He has been under investigation by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and had already been reprimanded following a police board probe into allegations of discreditable conduct and misuse of the department's devices.

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B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson released a decision last month that narrowed the scope of the commissioner's investigation by throwing out two of five allegations against Elsner.

The ruling determined the Twitter issues that were investigated by the police board could not be revisited by the police complaints commissioner, but the office could examine whether Elsner contacted witnesses and if he gave misleading information to the subordinate officer and an independent investigator.

British Columbia's police watchdog said on April 19 that it would appeal the court ruling quashing parts of its investigation into the misconduct allegations.

It's unclear what happens to the commissioner's investigation now that Elsner has resigned. No one from the commissioner's office returned a request for comment on Thursday.

Elsner had asked the court to set aside the commissioner's probe completely, arguing that an internal investigation had already been done.

He has been suspended with pay since April 2016.

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A separate investigation into allegations against Elsner of workplace sexual harassment has been set for a closed-door discipline hearing.

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