Suspended Victoria police chief to face discreditable conduct hearing

Suspended Victoria Police Chief Frank Elsner should face a disciplinary hearing for discreditable conduct and deceit, two retired judges have concluded.

In 2015, the Police Complaint Commissioner ordered an external investigation after allegations surfaced that Elsner had exchanged inappropriate messages on Twitter with a member of another police department who was also the spouse of a subordinate Victoria Police officer. 

Elsner was suspended in April 2016 after more allegations of misconduct surfaced, including that Elsner had attempted to influence a witness and attempted to delete information from Victoria Police computers.

The judges were asked to examine the final investigation reports and determine if there was enough evidence to proceed to a disciplinary hearing under the terms of the Police Act.

Sufficient evidence to proceed

In her review of the investigation retired judge Carol Baird Ellan concluded there was enough evidence to hold a disciplinary hearing into three allegations that: "Chief Constable Elsner did engage in conduct with a spouse of a member under his command which constituted a conflict of interest and/or breach of trust in circumstances in which he knew, or ought to have known, would likely bring discredit to the Victoria Police Department."

Baird also found enough evidence for the hearing to look at allegations that Elsner provided misleading information to an investigator, used police equipment for purposes unrelated to his duties, and encouraged a potential witness to make a false statement.

The second retired judge, Ian Pitfield, also found enough evidence to warrant a hearing into allegations that Elsner, "engaged in unwanted physical contact with female staff at the Victoria Police Department...made unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature.... and leered and inappropriately stared at female staff members."

Three other allegations lacked enough evidence to proceed to a hearing, Baird also concluded.

No date set yet

A date for the hearing has not been set, however according to Rollie Woods, Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner, it would have to start on or before April 25 according to the proscribed Police Act process.

Woods says even if Elsner resigns before the hearing begins, which he is attempting to do, it will still go ahead without him.

"Whatever the substantiation and discipline that results from the hearing will still go on his service record even if he has resigned," said Woods. 

During the disciplinary hearing Elsner will have the right to present and challenge evidence, and call witnesses.