Law Enforcement

Cops Spray Angry Crowd

Boise’s downtown was buzzing with plenty of action Saturday night (Sunday a.m.) as crowds stood along Main Street to watch police marching in the street.

It was no parade. They were watching 35 cops from four agencies squirting partyers with pepper spray following a violent stabbing incident at the Loft, a bar at 622 Idaho. Cops were scared (“felt threatened”) after the crowd failed to disperse taunted police who ordered them to leave the area.

Police Chief Mike Masterson is being placed in an unfair bind. He needs to maintain law and order in an area of concentrated partying and alcohol consumption. Friday night police initiated a “crackdown” and were forced to bring in outside agencies to assist the “bar team” which was created in September 2005. Apparently there are not enough Boise uniformed cops to keep the peace in downtown–evidenced by the outside troops who are routinely summoned to help.

The City recently amended–or is in the process of amending–an old ordinance which prohibits sale of alcohol on the sidewalk after sunset. It appears to the GUARDIAN there are two forces at work.

One is to sell more booze to make more money and attract more people downtown at night. The other force is charged with maintaining a safe place for citizens to enjoy their evenings. We hope both can reach a common goal, but when there are stabbings and murders it casts doubt on the issue.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. With all the talk about our great downtown this is the very reason we do not go there. It is all bout booze and drinking and we have no desire to subject our kids to this behavior. That is why we go elswhere to eat and enjoy movies etc..

  2. I am very pleased that no one felt that lethal force was necessary in the crowd control.

  3. I`m glad to see the postive enforcement down town, the 6th & main area has always been a problem area.

  4. These conflicts and incidents are just more byproducts of the explosive growth that the Snake River Plain is experiencing. Most of our politicians, tourist bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, real-estate sellers, etc. can proud. (Instead of just directly causing these problems, it is too bad that the aforementioned folks can’t be caught in the middle of every growth related incident that occurs with such regularity around here lately.)

    I guess if we keep electing house peddlers, those who slap houses together for a living, developers and all of the wimps whom they simply bribe or buy out right, we deserve what we get.

    My voting criteria used to look primarily at two areas: Where do you stand on a strong military? Where do you stand on ALL of the Amendments?

    It has changed to: Where are you from? What did/do you do for a living? Where does your campaign money come from? What religion are you? What is your stance on the exorbitant taxation mess as it currently exists? And THEN how well do you support the Amendments?

    ( At least THIS TIME the stabber/”alleged” perp wasn’t just described as having a “dark complexion, w/black hair and dark brown eyes.”)

  5. Letting people sit outside and have a drink late at night does not mean drunken riots are next. I was young once and loved to go downtown and have fun. I think a lot of your reader were too, but don’t want to admit it. There has always been fights, stabbing and idiot behavior, even 20 years ago when you could drink at 19. Is downtown a family place after 10:00 pm? No probably not. It is a whole lot better than the 80’s when it was a ghost town. If you don’t want drinking go to Rexburg.

  6. I agree with Sisyphus. This is Boise not some big city from (dare I say it) CaliforniaNewYorkEtc. However, perhaps the crowd was from a mix of the above areas and have brought their violent customs along with them.

    Now if the crowd were second generation Boiseans, or there abouts, all they would have needed was a threat of a good horse whippin’ or a talk to their parents. They would have dispersed without the use of costly pepper spray.

  7. I just heard the assults and fighting has dropped 15-20% from a year ago. I’m a native Idahoean. I can’t stand the blame of out of state transplants. Give me a break on that, please.

  8. OK, I must chime in. Sidewalk cafe alcohol service and bar incidents (stabbings) that happened this weekend are two entirely different issues. Both establishments that facilitated the stabbings lack sidewalk cafe’s. Every violent crime attributed to alcohol in downtown has occured in or around establishments without sidewalk cafes! Additionally, neither of this past weekend incidents was on 6th & main. Unmanaged growth is a huge issue and ironically it’s the lack of investment in downtown that I feel led to this. We have a number of “hard to rent” underdeloped buildings in the downtown area.

    These buildings, facilitated by their landlords, become prime spots for low investment alcohol barons to set up shop. The establishments that cause the biggest problems don’t serve food. They cater primarily to the Friday/Saturday night crowd after 10pm. Restaurants with sidewalk cafes that serve alcohol tend to not have these type of problems. Study the facts, we fight the same battle and a vibrant downtown is a healthy solution to urban sprawl. We need people living downtown, working downtown and playing downtown. Restaurants and sidewalk cafes are an important part of building that vibrancy. We serve alcohol on our cafes until we close, we call it hospitality. Our customers do not stab each other and for the most part are responsible citizens like you and I.

    Dave Krick
    Bittercreek/Red Feather/Reef

    EDITOR NOTE–Point well made.

  9. I regularly hit up the nightlife downtown on the weekends, and yes, the 6th and main area is just too much hassle. Too many idiots walking around with a drunken chip on their shoulder.

    The western part of downtown is much better (Neurolux, Mulligans, The Bouquet). Plus, the people-watching opportunities are much more fascinating.

  10. I agree with DH..this is a symptom of our rapid growth. Sure, there have always been issues downtown. I have lived here my entire 38 yrs. and recall issues with alcohol etc., however, as police officers we are facing a growing threat downtown where there is now more violence and more weapons than ever before.

    I don’t blame all this on the people moving here but on a combination of societal changes and growth.

    Does the BPD need more resources? Absolutely! Unlike the Fire Dept. which has built in triggers for staffing levels (and a minimum # of fireman on duty at any given time, which is larger than the minimum number of policeman) the police department has fallen farther and farther behind. By any measure (calls for service, officers per thousand, etc.) we are way behind other cities our size and the other large intermountain cities (SLC, Reno, Spokane, Tacoma, Eugene).

    The police dept. needs the resources to maintain a professional, well equipped and well staffed dept. so we don’t become a reactive force like LAPD. It is our philosophy that by working with each other, we as police officers are more in tune with those people we serve and can prevent a lot of violence before it happens.

    As far as outside agencies helping us, on those special patrols we like to involve all kinds of resources, it helps to spread out the cost (since many of the kids are from the other jurisdictions) and it also helps provide interaction so when a true emergency happens (like the stabbing and large crowd) we know each other. For emergencies it is not unlike the fire dept. calling on Meridian, North Ada, BLM, etc. for assistance when things begin to escalate beyond the capability of those resources available. Even with these issues, downtown Boise is still a relatively fun and safe place to visit.

    (Kip is president of the cop union)

  11. The BPD and the safety of the people of Boise is between a rock and a hard place here… We all want to be able to go downtown on a weekend and sit at a pleasant outdoor cafe and enjoy a glass of wine with the sights. There are bars however that cater to drunks and the drug crowd. No one needs that and the police should not have to maintain special patrols so that these bar owners can make their profits. Next time there’s an incident like Saturday night the bar owners should be made to pay for all the extra law enforcement. They’ll clean up their act quick!

  12. I don’t do downtown anymore. It’s on the way down. Once got razzed (5 minutes) by a bike cop, after having a softdrink and a burger while waiting for a friend at the movies. Apparently to tie a shoelace in public is suspicion of intoxication. Thought he was bored until I realized he kept trying to stand downwind of me.

    I’m happy to have cops to stop real problems, but this was weird.

    What is the city’s haul $$$ on taxes from bars anyway? Does it pay off overall?

  13. If the Boise PD is so short-handed, could it be because they force annex county areas just to get more tax dollars, without having the man power to provide city services to these areas. ( and no plan!) With all the extra tax money the last annexation provides, they should have a surplus of officers. Since we have been annexed there has been no visible police patrols in this area! We used to see sheriffs drive through often.

  14. Kate, I would assume you refer to the southwest annexations?…You are absolutely right, it takes over 12 months to hire, train and get a police officer working on their own, so even when the city “suddenly” was springing for 6 additional officers to work that area (just after the annexation) you were already over a year away. There seems to be no preplanning for police services to these areas and then we at the PD are held accountable to “make it work”. I apologize but we are trying with the resources we do have.

  15. This seems to be a very isolated event that has everyone worked up into a tizzy about the “mean streets of downtown Boise.” Please. Downtown is rediculously safe, at pretty much any hour of the day or night. Relax. In some places, a stabbing or shooting or fight happens just about every weekend.

  16. Kip,
    I understand the Police Dept just announced a new “program” to keep more officers doing “officer” work, by hiring CSOs or Community Service Officers (I guess that’s different than Crime Scene Officers). These will be/are civilian positions and purportedly will be easier to fill. How is this different than the old “Telephone Report Unit”? I recall that was begun with the same end objective; to allow sworn staff to do the priority work and have the report unit handle filing and reporting of stolen items, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I think its a good idea, just not a new one.

  17. I agree John. Boise has come a long way since the rash of police shootings in the late 90’s. I think the police should be commended for maintaining this level of professionalism just as they should have been, and were, criticized for not using every reasonable option available to avoid bloodshed and lethal force.

    I think the Ombudsman oversight helped significantly and my hat is still off to Mr. Murphy for achieving the level of respect he enjoys in what had to have been a thankless task. It has resulted in more Andy Taylors and fewer Barney Fife’s on patrol. I understand there are some nitpiks with the police and what happened that night but I for one am grateful nobody is unexpectedly planning a funeral as a result.

  18. Someone please remind me:
    With frequent fights, stabbings etc. related to indoor bars, why are the various lawmakers, cop-types etc. spending their time worrying about outside drinking, having a glass of wine while watching at movie at the Flicks, and those horrid art galleries that let visitors sip a glass of wine while viewing paintings, sculptures, etc.?
    Do they figure if they cut out the drinking in restaurant patios, movies and art galleries, they could cram even more people into the indoor bars and maybe make them so crowded nobody would have room to move his arms enough to pull a knife or gun?
    Or are they just totally out of touch with reality (and, if so, WHAT have they been drinking?

  19. curious george
    Jul 18, 2006, 6:31 pm

    I agree with everything Gordon and Dave Krick have written. It isn’t outdoor dining establishments, art gallery openings, or indoor theater alcohol consumption that contribute to drunken hooliganism. The more reasonable adults and families there are downtown, the more eyes there are on the street. With that kind of public observation going on, the rate of violence would drop immensely.

    Officer Wills should look at what Ada County has instituted in processing Planned Communities – regarding maintaining appropriate police levels of service. With a desire to ensure consistent officer presence, the county assesses a one-time fee on top of EVERY building permit issued. This generates enough money to make up for any potential budget shortfalls that could be experienced by normal delays in property value appreciation and tax collection. If Boise were to adopt such a mitigation mechanism it might slow down land speculation by out-of-stater’s, and generate enough money to improve over-stressed public services.

    Last year I visited Atlanta (no, the one in Georgia). During it’s version of First Thursday, the city implements an all-volunteer street consierge service. These volunteers help the public by providing directions, passing out maps and answering general questions about the various evening events. If Atlanta can do this, and on streets quite a bit more “scary” than Boise’s, I can’t see why Boise can’t do the same. Granted, it would be hard to get a descent Idahoan to wear the white Bermuda shorts and pith helmets worn by the volunteers in Atlanta 😉 But, the Parks Department seems to do well with its volunteer Greenbelt patrols (though I’m not sure these geriatric volunteers could be counted on to roll the cruise strip in their golf carts – but its fun imagining)…

    Head ’em up, move ’em out

  20. I love George’s idea brought home from Atlanta. But take it one step further. What we need is a platoon of grandmas. I remember going to a party, DECADES ago, at the home of a family friend. This was a teenager party while the parents were out of town. The parents had left the 84 year old grandmother in charge. She was sitting at the dining room table sipping a beer most of the evening. The thing I remember most was the decorum of those in attendance. They were quieter, more respectful, they took their shoes off, and kept the music softer. Grandma didn’t have to DO anything…her mere presence created an atmosphere of respect, even in a bunch of headbangin’ teenagers.

    Maybe the Granny brigade could cruise the downtown in golf carts reminding those who might otherwise drink too much, cast the F-bomb too often and be inclined to brawl in the streets, that Granny is watching. Who needs big brother or the cops?

  21. Everyone: Although I may not always agree with each and everyone of you I appreciate the ability to interact and see how the law abiding majority of you feel on issues. Truly, we as public servants need to know how the people feel on issues to be effective.

    That does not mean that we can always fix problems but we are better officers if we are informed. Tam asks about the new “CSO” issue. Several local agencies utilize a similar program to help their sworn officers with tasks that can be handled by nonsworn personnel. Nampa and Garden City are 2 examples. Will free officers time? We’ll have to see, at least city hall is trying something as they recognize our severe staffing issues. I would love to see planned development payment for services and think thats a great option I will research.

    If anyone has legitimate concerns or questions, I would be glad to at least give you my perspective as a second generation Idaho cop and union president here. My union email is located at and send us your thoughts and questions. Again, thanks to all for this great forum and your thoughts.

    EDITOR NOTE–We would like to have the Chief or his commanders weigh in here as well like the Mayor of Star has done.

  22. Folks, here’s a small example of the larger problem with the Guardian.

    Incorrect facts.

    The Loft isn’t at 622 Main. In fact, it’s not even on Main Street.

    It’s on Idaho Street. No, it didn’t move for the night. Nor did the kind folks on the street naming committee swap the names for the two boulevards for the evening/early morning.

    The Loft is located at 622 West Idaho – which is the location of Saturday’s near-dousing.

    EDITOR NOTE–I’ve been here 38 years and still get Main and Idaho Mixed up! Thanks Insider, we fixed it.

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