The findings of a review into how the investigations of misconduct of former Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner were conducted has found amendments to the Police Act are necessary.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps co-chairs the police board with Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, and the pair were tasked with the initial investigation into Elsner’s behaviour.
The report, released Wednesday by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner found mayors do not have the expertise to conduct such an investigation because they have “little or no understanding of the complexities of the police discipline system.”
“I absolutely 100 per cent agree,” said Helps.
According to a past report, the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board previously had not provided the OPCC with records of allegations of workplace harassment involving Elsner, even though the matter surfaced during an internal investigation launched by the police board.
A member of the Victoria Police Union executive brought the allegation to the attention of the OPCC.
Helps said the police board investigation she and Desjardins took part in was only related to Twitter messages Elsner sent to the wife of a subordinate officer.
Later, allegations of harassment and bullying were brought to their attention by the internal investigator who Helps asked the advice of.
“… she said we should have her wrap up the investigation and put the new allegations in a letter accompanying her report. This is what we did.”
Elsner was found to have committed eight acts of misconduct under the Police Act, something Commissioner Stan Lowe called “unprecedented in this country.”
Lowe has formally recommended the Police Act be amended to require the discipline authority on future matters be a retired judge, as it was in the case of the review.
Elsner quit the force in May 2017 and faces no formal punishment, having not been charged criminally.
As a result of the incident, Helps said the board wrote to Police Services a letter of “key recommendations” based on strategic priorities it laid out at the start of 2018.
“I think the Police Act should be changed so no mayor is ever in that position again,” she said. “We were way out of our depth.”
The recommendations will probably be taken more seriously now that the OPCC has agreed, she added.
“The next question will be how much did it all cost?” Helps said. “That’s something that we want to know as well.”
Multiple attempts by Black Press Media to reach Mayor Barb Desjardins went unanswered.