Victoria's Police Chief, Frank Elsner, joined Harbourside Rotary this morning to tell us more about him and his direction for the Victoria Police Service. 
Victoria's Police Chief, Frank Elsner, joined Harbourside Rotary this morning to tell us more about him and his direction for the Victoria Police Service. 
Frank Elsner was born in Germany but moved to Canada with his family when he was only 2 years old.  He lived in both Vancouver and the Okanagan has he was growing up but always had a love for Victoria and wanted to settle here.  After working in the OPP in Ontario, Thunder Bay Police Force & Sudbury as the Chief there, he was pleased to take the transfer to the Victoria Police on Dec 31, 2013.
As someone who always wanted to make a difference, Frank Elsner has seen a positive change in the policing world since he joined the RCMP in 1982.  The name even changed - from Police Force to Police Service.  Crime statistics are reducing in Victoria due to good police work and demographic changes, however, the types of calls have changed.  There is less pursuit of criminals and more management of social problems like homelessness, addiction and mental health. 
The Victoria Police Service surveyed the community in 2014 and found out more about the concerns of the residents in Victoria. It wasn't anything surprising to the Chief but it has helped with forming their strategic plan. 75-80% of the job is managing mental health disorders and that reduces the Victoria Police resources from pursuing criminals such as those committing fraud.  
Visibility has been key in changing the culture in Victoria to move from more traditional policing to community work.  Being more visible in the community by walking around, having more visible vehicles and integrating with more services.   
Amalgamation is a big issue for Victoria and there are complexities when it comes to policing the Victoria downtown core when many people are coming from surrounding municipalities.  The best the Chief can do is reach out to the different Police Services across the CRD and ask how they can better work together to be more efficient.  There is a crisis with funding as the social issues are being pushed off to the first responders.  There is a need for more political support to help streamline how to help those in need and there isn't any time to waste.  Policing is expensive and we need to find a way to better use funds as the need isn't going to decrease.
Hiring for the future police officers of tomorrow is key.  They are not the police officers of yesterday or today, they will likely need to be quite different to adapt to the changes in our communities. 
Questions from our club members included:
Why are police uniforms and cars changing to all black, which is more intimidating.  Chief Elsner said that the uniforms are all about safety for the officers in a night situation the old uniforms were much too visible.  All Police Services across North America are moving to the black uniforms.  As for cars, this is something Chief Elser would like to change but will wait until a new fleet of cars are ordered.
Chief Elsner also commented that his Board asked him how he could reduce costs and he said that we would need to get rid of the legislature - the protests & threats there keep the Victoria Police Service busy.  Then there are the downtown events - Snowbirds, Canada Day, etc. and bars/clubs then shelters.  That is all keeping our Victoria police very busy.
The rise in mental health related calls is North American wide and is straining the police and hospital services.  Chief Elsner advocates for a program that would deal with some prevention using trained staff to work with the community with the support of the police and hospitals instead of making them the first point of contact.  There are workable possibilities to see improvement, they just need to be funded.