While it's not yet confirmed, it sure looks like Greater Sudbury's top cop is headed west.
And while Frank Elsner isn't denying reports he's in line to be the new police chief in Victoria, B.C., he says no decisions have been made.
Victoria-based journalist Stephen Andrew has reported Elsner is the choice of the police services board, but a lack of quorum is delaying the process. On Sunday, the provincial government ended the term of the four members of the board it chooses, which means the appointment won't be official until they're replaced.
In the meantime, Elsner has engaged in some tongue-and-cheek comments on the speculation on his twitter account.
“What's with all the new twitter followers today?” Elsner tweeted Tuesday.
When Andrew replied “Surely you jest,” Elsner responded, “I don't and stop calling me Shirley!”
“Looking forward to meeting you – first interview perhaps?” Andrews responded.
“Sure, but that's presupposing I'm going,” was Elsner's reply.
In a statement Tuesday, B.C.'s attorney general said delays were connected to efforts to “ultimately strengthen the Victoria-Esquimalt policing relationship.
“I do recognize the board is currently one member short of a quorum. I can assure you that finalizing our provincial appointments is a priority for government,” Suzanne Anton said.
In Sudbury, Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis, who chairs the police services board, said if the reports turn out to be true, Elsner will be sorely missed.
“He's considering it, there's no doubt about it,” Dupuis said Tuesday. “We, as a police services board, are very lucky to have him as long as we did.”
Elsner was an innovative leader, Dupuis said, who brought vision to his work and supported many successful policing initiatives.
“Frank Elsner has been a dynamic leader of our police service,” Dupuis said. “We certainly don't want to see him leave, but we also don't want to stand in his way … Victoria is home for him. His mom is still living there in that area.”
If his move west is made official, Dupuis said the board will start the process of selecting a new chief.
“If he is going to Victoria, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Elsner would replace retiring chief Jamie Graham, who announced in April he was leaving after five years. Deputy Chief John Ducker retired in August after 34 years with the force.
Since Elsner became chief in Sudbury in 2009, the force implemented a community outreach program known as Zone 30, in which police officers set up a storefront in communities in high-risk areas. The goal was to have them become a part of the neighbourhood, so residents would be comfortable enough with them to tell them what was going on in the area.
The initiative led to a dramatic drop in the number of crimes and calls to police in the area, going from several a week to a few per month.
Another initiative diverted police dealing with mental health cases to a clinic on Cedar Street, which extended its operating hours to accommodate police.
Previously, officers had to take such cases to the emergency department at the hospital to be assessed, a process that took several hours. The diversion program not only dramatically reduced the number of hours officers wasted in the ER, it also helped ease overcrowding at the hospital.
More recently, he championed extending the use of Tasers as a way for frontline officers to avoid violent confrontations.
Born: West Germany in 1963, moved to Canada at age 2, living in Vancouver and the Okanagan Valley with his parents.
Policing career: Joined the RCMP out of high school, later working for the Ontario Provincial Police and Thunder Bay Police, joining Sudbury's force in 2007.
Undercover: Elsner was an undercover officer for the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, which investigates organized crime in the province.
Big bust: One covert operation, involving an organized crime family and lasting more than a year, resulted in a $1-million drug bust and 75 arrests. He spent time in jail undercover, and lived the same lifestyle as the people he was investigating.
“I got beat up pretty good on one occasion, no scars but some broken ribs, hand, and a concussion,” he told Sudbury Living Magazine in 2010.