WATCH: The report of the two investigations and subsequent disciplinary proceedings involving former Victoria police chief Frank Elsner also addresses two mayors: Victoria’s Lisa Helps, and Esquimalt’s Barb Desjardins. As a result of their handling of the Elsner investigation, the province’s police commissioner is recommending B.C. mayors no longer conduct investigations of chiefs or deputy chiefs of police. Mary Griffin reports.
Three years after the scandal involving Victoria’s former police chief, Esquimalt mayor Barb Desjardins is facing questions into her handling of the investigation.
“We accept the judgement of the justices. And frankly, the recommendation by the OPCC is a good one. One that we would certainly agree,” Desjardins said.
A key recommendation of the report by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner into disgraced former Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner is that retired judges, not mayors, investigate possible misconduct of chiefs of police, and deputy chiefs.
As co-chairs of the Victoria Police Board, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, and Esquimalt’s Barb Desjardins voiced their support for the former chief despite allegations against Frank Elsner that include bullying, harassment in the days after.
On Dec. 5, 2015, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is asked by a reporter if there is any truth that there is an investigation going on with the chief. Her response: “No, no. The board has full confidence in our chief. He’s the best thing that’s happened to this town and Esquimalt in a long time.”
Desjardins is asked if she mishandled the file from the start.
“I think you will find that most mayors will be very happy with that decision,” Desjardins said.
An internal investigation ordered by the mayors revealed Elsner’s harassment of female officers in the Victoria Police Department as far back as October, 2015. At the conclusion of the internal investigation, the only discipline received by Elsner was a letter the mayors placed a letter in his file. Victoria’s Helps acknowledged they were aware of the allegations three years ago.
“When that bullying and harassment information came up, the investigator that was doing the internal investigation brought that forward. And it was recorded as part of the report, “Helps said.
But today, Desjardins contradicted Helps, denying any knowledge of allegations of harassment.
“No-one had come forward to us. As I said, we feel very strongly we are as, two female mayors, had somebody come to us, we would have been investigating that right away,” Desjardins said.
The police complaints commissioner Stan Lowe found there is strong arguable case can be made that the mayors had predetermined the outcome of the internal discipline process from the outset, and set about navigating a course to allow the former chief to remain at his post.