VICTORIA — The union representing police officers in Victoria says the chief needs to be removed from his post over a breach of trust that affects all members.
Chief Frank Elsner issued a statement earlier this week saying he was sorry and humiliated for exchanging direct messages with a woman on Twitter.
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.
The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board gave its full support for Elsner's leadership after the findings of an investigation by an independent lawyer were presented to the board last week.
"When you're contacting the spouse of a member that's a betrayal that most members are going to find hard to forgive."
But Shiels said the union didn't see the report and didn't know about the investigation until recently, which hampered its ability to support the officer whose wife was involved.
"It's alleged misconduct only on the part of the chief, but the affected member should be made privy to what the scope of the investigation was and what the outcome was,'' Shiels said.
Elsner issued a statement late Wednesday saying he was aware of a release the union sent to media and that he will continue to serve citizens of the community with the first-rate policing service that they expect and deserve.
"This is a challenging time for our sworn membership, our professional support staff and the department as a whole, but I have confidence that we will continue serving the public with professionalism for which Vic PD is known.''
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said Monday that it was reviewing the lawyer's report and will determine whether to order a further investigation.
"This is a challenging time for our sworn membership, our professional support staff and the department as a whole."
However, Shiels said officers with the Victoria Police Department don't believe the investigation process was transparent or thorough enough, adding they want the complaint commissioner to know that the investigation doesn't impact just one or two officers.
"It's our position, the membership's position, that a level of trust needs to exist between the chief and his members. The members need to have trust in the chief and the chief has breached that trust.''
Shiels said union members want the commissioner to order an independent investigation, arguing that the B.C. Police Act should apply equally to all members, regardless of rank.
— By Terri Theodore in Vancouver
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