Mayors say Victoria police chief's future part of ongoing talks

Image: CP.

VICTORIA — The future of Victoria's police chief turned uncertain again Friday after the police board said it was considering several options as it investigates a brewing social media scandal.

The shift comes one week after the board fully supported Chief Const. Frank Elsner after he apologized for exchanging messages on Twitter with the wife of an officer under his command.

The police board said in a statement that it will conduct an internal disciplinary investigation under the Police Act after receiving reports about the chief's actions.

It said Elsner "admitted he acted inappropriately during a social media exchange in June of 2015."

Police board co-chairwomen Lisa Helps and Barb Desjardins attended a news conference Friday at the headquarters of the Victoria Police Department.

Asked if Elsner could be fired, Desjardins said: "The options would range all the way from one end of the spectrum to the other."

Helps is the mayor of Victoria, and Desjardins is mayor of the neighbouring community of Esquimalt, which is also served by Victoria police.

"The chief of police is still on the job, in fact he is on vacation at this point," Desjardins said.

"We have to ensure due process and it's very important that the chief constable be part of that as well," she said.

Desjardins said the police board is considering advice from its legal counsel and input from British Columbia's Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner before making its next moves. She said the board will convene as quickly as it can, but a date has not been set.

The police commissioner's office said in a statement Friday that it is awaiting further information from the police board before it can complete a review of the matter.  

Elsner issued a statement last week saying he was sorry and humiliated for exchanging direct messages with a woman on Twitter.

"With respect to the chief's leadership of the department, the board is committed to making a timely decision on this important issue," the board said in its statement. "The board is equally committed to ensuring all members of the Victoria Police Department are treated fairly and accorded due process."

Victoria's police union said this week that the chief needs to be removed from his post over a breach of trust that affects all members.

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

"When you're contacting the spouse of a member, that's a betrayal that most members are going to find hard to forgive,'' he said Wednesday.

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

Helps said the police board met with the police union this week and acknowledges the union has issues with the way the initial investigation proceeded.

"The board understands that some people may be dissatisfied with the process or the outcome of the discipline process,"  the board said in a statement.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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