FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
This is to provide an update with respect to Chief Frank Elsner’ Petition currently before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In their capacity as Internal Discipline Authorities, the Co-Chairs were named as Respondents in the Petition and today have filed material in the matter which is now also posted on the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board webpage below:
The material filed today by counsel for the Co-Chairs of the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, Mayor Helps and Mayor Desjardins, in connection with the Supreme Court of British Columbia Petition brought by Chief Constable Frank Elsner, outlines the process that they followed, under the supervision of the Police Complaint Commissioner (PCC), in their capacity as Internal Discipline Authority for Chief Constable Elsner. The Police Complaint Commissioner was consulted at the outset. The PCC directed the Co-Chairs both directly and through their lawyer and approved the selection of the lawyer appointed to undertake the internal investigation as a suitable and independent third party. As directed by the PCC, an internal investigation was carried out. At the conclusion of the investigation the Mayors, as Discipline Authority, imposed what they considered to be appropriate discipline.
The PCC has since purported to exercise his statutory authority in ordering that the internal discipline process followed as set out above was not adequate. He has appointed a new Discipline Authority in place of the Mayors. This order of the PCC is the subject matter of Chief Constable Elsner’s Petition, now pending in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
In addition, the PCC has also ordered two additional external investigations into the alleged conduct of Chief Constable Elsner.
The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board (the Board) remains hopeful that issues arising in Chief Constable Elsner’s Petition as well as issues arising in the two other external investigations ordered by the PCC will be decided in a timely fashion.
Cost to taxpayers in the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt is always of paramount concern to the mayors as Co-Chairs and to the other members of the Police Board. The Board also recognizes that part of its obligation to these two communities is to ensure that all employees of the Victoria Police Department receive the benefit of natural justice and procedural fairness. There is a cost associated with ensuring our employees are treated fairly. In the opinion of the Board this is a cost which must be incurred.
Recent media coverage has suggested that the Board may be in receipt of information from the OPCC that substantiates the new allegations. That is simply not so. It must be understood that the new allegations are being investigated, and nothing has been proven at this point. It is expected that at the end of the investigation, the external Discipline Authority will review the report and make a decision on substantiation. The Board expects that the OPCC will readily confirm this.
Chief Constable Elsner was suspended by order of Adjudicator Pitfield last week. The Police Act provides that any police officer who is suspended in this province is presumptively entitled to receive full pay and allowances during the period of the suspension. This is subject to the Police Board’s power to decide whether there are strong reasons in the public interest to conclude that the suspended police officer’s full pay and allowances should be discontinued. Such a conclusion is only permissible after proper notice to the suspended officer, after a hearing at which he is entitled to appear, to be represented by counsel and to be heard. In accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness, such a determination must be based on evidence and not on speculation.
Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Rollie Woods has been quoted in the media as saying that “the Board can reconsider its decision (presumably whether to pursue a hearing into whether the current suspension should be with or without pay) any time as more evidence comes in.” That is absolutely correct.
Since external Discipline Authorities have been appointed, the Board has more limited information on the nature, status and progress of the investigation than if Mayor Desjardins and Mayor Helps were the Discipline Authority. To the extent that additional information would assist the Board, the Board is hopeful that the PCC will provide it.
The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, like the public, continues to hope for an efficient, expedient and most importantly a fair conclusion to these matters. The PCC has stated that the public should not rush to judgment or engage in speculation. The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board fully agrees with this statement.