WATCH: The scathing report into former Victoria police chief Frank Elsner also took a hard look at the actions of the co-chairs of the police board, Lisa Helps and Barb Desjardins. Now some of those vying to unseat the incumbent mayors of Victoria and Esquimalt in next month’s election are weighing in. Mary Griffin reports.
Criminal lawyer Mike Mulligan has read a key section of the report by B. C. Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe. The section concludes Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins knew all about the former Victoria police chief’s bullying and harassment of female officers.
“It would appear that what happened is that the mayors were acting in a way designed to avoid, perhaps, the embarrassment of this sort of conduct being engaged in, or revealed by someone they were responsible for,” Mulligan said.
Elsner’s swearing-in as chief of VicPD occurred December 16, 2013. But issues arose less than two years after his swearing in. Helps and Desjardins appointed an investigator to look into allegations. That report, in October 2015, confirmed bullying and harassment allegations. The mayors not only failed to act on the information, but they also did not inform the Police Complaint Commissioner.
“There could have been better communication with my office and there could have been better cooperation with my office,” Lowe said Wednesday.
Victoria mayoral candidate Stephen Hammond also read Lowe’s report, including the section on the actions by Helps and Desjardins.
“The mayors chose not, and he underlines not, to expand the investigator’s mandate to include these allegations,” Hammond said.
With less than one month to the municipal election, he and other Victoria’s mayoral challengers weigh in.
“Can the police, can women within the police, and can the public now trust that these people are showing the best interests of the public and the police and the police board when they are heading up the police board? And I think the answer is no,” Hammond said.
And candidate Mike Geoghegan reacted to the report as well.
“I’m disappointed that the current mayor chose to essentially whitewash this rather than taking action. I mean, quite frankly, I’m a little shocked,” Geoghegan said.
The sole mayoral challenger in Esquimalt, John Roe, declined an opportunity to speak on-camera, but in a statement wrote; “My heart goes out to police members and staff, trust and respect needs to be rebuilt, with our elected members.”
The Victoria City Police Union said back in December 2015 it had no confidence in the way the police board handled the internal investigation, and it had no confidence”in former chief Frank Elsner.
On Thursday, the union issued a statement agreeing with the police complaint commissioner’s decisions including appointing retired judges to act as the disciplinary authority in misconduct matters for police chiefs, and deputy police chiefs.