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Union has ‘no confidence’ in Victoria police chief after inappropriate messages

Victoria police chief Frank Elsner was found to have sent inappropriate online messages to another officer’s wife.

Victoria Police Department/Handout

Victoria's police union says it has no confidence in Chief Frank Elsner after he was found to have sent inappropriate online messages to another officer's wife – but the chief does not appear to have any plans to step down.

Chief Elsner, who has led the force for just under two years, apologized on Sunday for the inappropriate messages, though their content has still not been revealed.

Glen Shiels, acting president of the Victoria City Police Union, blasted the chief in a statement on Wednesday.

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"Based on the actions and conduct of Chief Elsner, which the police board found to be improper, the Victoria City Police Union has no confidence in his ability to continue to lead the Victoria Police Department," the statement read.

But Chief Elsner, in a statement of his own, gave no indication he plans to leave his post.

"This is a challenging time for our sworn membership, our professional support staff and the department as a whole, but I have confidence that we will continue serving the public with the professionalism for which VicPD is known," the statement said.

The chief said his priority is to continue providing first-rate policing, and he noted that the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board has said he has its "full confidence."

An investigation into the chief began after the police board was notified of a concern in August. The board consulted with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner on how best to proceed, and then hired an outside lawyer to investigate.

The investigation, which wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, determined that Chief Elsner's messages to the woman were inappropriate, though the two did not have a physical relationship.

The chief said Sunday that the incident had left him "sorry and humiliated."

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The police union, in its statement, called on the Police Complaint Commissioner to order a public trust investigation.

Rollie Woods, the deputy police complaint commissioner, said in an e-mail that the office is aware of the union's request and is awaiting further materials from the police board investigation before determining the next step.

The union was also critical of the police board's handling of the investigation.

Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins, the board's lead co-chair, and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, the deputy co-chair, have been criticized for telling reporters last week that the chief was not being investigated. The investigation had actually just finished. Critics have said the board's response was misleading.

Ms. Helps said in an interview on Wednesday that the board was limited in what it could say about a personnel issue.

"Insinuations that we deliberately misled anyone are absolutely untrue," she said. "We were doing the best with our understanding of an internal investigation, which is a private personnel matter."

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Ms. Helps said the board is now waiting to see how the Police Complaint Commissioner proceeds.

"We acknowledge the concerns of the union, we absolutely do. And we're waiting, as everyone is, for the OPCC to understand really clearly what the next steps are. Obviously this is a very sensitive issue," she said.

Chief Elsner took the helm of the Victoria department in January, 2014, after four years as police chief in Sudbury. His online biography says he has more than 30 years of policing experience, including time with the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police.

He is married and has two daughters.

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