City Government

Cop Sought Birmingham Style Fire Hoses

Only the good judgment of a Boise Fire captain kept Boise from getting “national recognition” Saturday night with images of fire hoses being turned on crowds of citizens–just like the 1960’s civil rights days in Birmingham, Alabama.

A Boise Police officer requested an engine crew from station #5 to respond to the area of 6th and Main where police were confronting an angry crowd after a stabbing at a bar. A GUARDIAN source told us, “He told the cops to go pound sand.” Deputy Fire Chief Dave Hanneman was a little more diplomatic when he said, “We don’t do that, so we said no.”

Police did unleash pepper spray on the angry crowd and marched in skirmish lines pushing the people west of Capitol Boulevard. The GUARDIAN has had reports of “heavy handed tactics” by police who shoved people around.

The daily paper quoted police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower who soft peddled the actions of the officer who requested the fire hoses for crowd control…She thought he was a sergeant or lieutenant.

“He was reaching for options. What is important to note is that it is not an option. It is not something that would have been used. It is way outdated,” said the police spokeswoman. She termed the situation as “desperate” and “scary” and then qualified the remark as TEMPORARILY desperate and scary.

We worry that ANY policeman of any rank would make an urgent call to the fire department without the authority of superiors who all claim they would never approve turning fire hoses on citizens.

If dousing human beings with fire hoses is NOT an option and would never be considered by cops, we hope police commanders are making it clear to the rest of the department that whoever called for firemen used BAD JUDGMENT and violated department chain of command by making a request that was beyond his pay grade.

In summary, if it were not for the good judgment of the Fire Department captain, the inappropriate action would have been taken and both police and fire brass would be defending the actions. No doubt MONEY MAGAZINE would have taken away our #8 ranking as well!!

Comments & Discussion

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  1. It appears to me that the police of Boise need to be debriefed. They need to learn that they are not in a large city, they are no longer in LA or NY or Reno…they are in Boise, Idaho. When closing down a bar one can get things done by displaying the type of respect one hopes to receive……. This is Boise. The people the officers shove and spray are actually the ones who are paying their salaries. We vote, we are the public they are trying to protect (aren’t we?)

    We, the public, are not your enemies. We may be rude when treated badly and we may act like little kids, but Boiseans not not inclined to riot. However, if you continue to treat us as your enemy, we shall be enemies. Truely, it will happen. And the police are the ones who are creating it, not the employee-citizen.

    And as a law abiding citizen, I do not want to be pushed around as I am forced to leave an establishment – even if that person is wearing a uniform. I really don’t want to be treated badly and then be shoved down the block without really seeing that there is a good reason. I’ll go if it appears reasonable, but it really is up to the authority ie cops to be reasonable in an emergency situation and demonstrate reason it to the citizens.
    Personally, I think that pepper spray is overkill, but better than shooting the crowd….at least no one was shot Kent State style. But with the current police attitude and behavior it will happen. Here. In Boise. And it will not be the fault of the people. It will be the fault of those who “control” and train the police force.

    Please get your officers under control. This is still only Boise Idaho. Perhaps bigger than it was when I was born here, but it’s still Boise.

  2. A good wash down by the cities finest might have cleaned up some of the folks from the bar. It would have at least sobered them up a little. If the drunks from the bars had not been out of line acting as a mob the officers would never had to be there in the first place.

  3. we are again! Fortunately this time you are right, this was a command level officer trying to find a nonlethal alternative to the situation. Not a good option, and against standard policy, but still was considered as an option. I am grateful that it was never seriously considered by anyone but still is of concern that a command level officer would feel the situation might call for that option. Ah..the world we live in!

  4. “If the drunks from the bars had not been out of line acting as a mob the officers would never had to be there in the first place.”

    Actually, the cops were there because someone was stabbed… not because a mob somehow magically appeared out of thin air.

    Editor note–see comment above from the police union president.

  5. HH says he is willing to cooperate with the police if he thinks they are being reasonable????
    When someone is stabbed in a bar, the decision of what is “reasonable” is going to be made by someone in a uniform with a gun. The attitude that “I will follow their orders, maybe” is the exact reason we are having problems we used to only read about in other cities. There is an almost complete breakdown in respect for the police department. We had better get a handle on this ” lack of respect issue” or we will be facing even larger big city problems.
    If you don’t want to get ” hasseled by the man” then stay out of drunken barfights with stabbings at 2 o’clock in the morning.

  6. Boise Police using “heavy-handed tactics”? I’m shocked to hear that. It’s been months (maybe even a couple of years) since they killed someone needlessly. I thought their war against 20-somethings was over.

    More freedom, less control.

  7. Cyclops – please advise as to how to obtain advance knowledge as to which bar is going to have “drunken barfights with stabbings”. I am sure that the the person to be stabbed would like to have that information.

    If this were the only situation in which the boise BPD had “acted out” there would not be such a reaction, but it is just another situation which makes old Boiseans wonder what has gotten into the employees who are paid to protect us. Would I call 911 if I had a family member acting out….only if I was willing for that family member to be shot.

    So much for a single bar fight situation. It is just one more situation after another making the police look bad. Thank goodness for the fire department’s good sense.

    I agree, this is still a small town, no matter how bad the traffic has become.

  8. “There is an almost complete breakdown in respect for the police department.”

    And why is that?

    In a particular experience of mine a few years ago with the BPD and their handmaiden the so called “judicial system,” I got screwed. Therefore I have little respect. Do I stay out of their way and obey their orders? Hell yeah, I’m not completely stupid.

    What’s more, cops and prosecutors can and do lie! Supreme Court said it’s perfectly legal a few years ago. I can’t cite the case, maybe someone else can. I dunno about anyone else, but I have little respect for liars.

  9. Rodney King
    Jul 19, 2006, 8:42 am

    Can’t we all just get along?

  10. Was this incident the same night as the big “Ultimate Fighting Challenge” at the US Bank Center or Qwest Arena or whatever we are calling it these days? See, I think common sense dictates that hitting the bars, after an event where men get paid to pummel each other bloody, is probably looking for trouble. I think the same about the BSU/Idaho football game, and a myriad of other events where some people are just more apt to overdrink, get lippy and make problems.

    I personally don’t think UFC or other “street fight” type events are the healthiest entertainment to bring downtown, but I’m old and tired, so what do I know.

  11. From a human rights / humane treatment perspective, I don’t think pepper spraying a crowd is that much better than hosing them down.

    However, when it comes to media events and national headlines, pepper spray is less visible, doesn’t play as well, on television, and is therefore less damaging to a city’s reputation.

    The fact that BPD showed bad judgement doesn’t mean the the fire department has good judgement.

    Whether hosing the crowd is good policy or a bad policy doesn’t matter. Check the union card. BFD doen’t get paid to do crowd control. No judgement required.

  12. A couple observations. HH, I mostly agree but acknowledge there are circumstances where police have more knowledge of the “big picture” on a given situation and they just don’t have the time or resources to explain why their actions are reasonable to imbibing pissed off partiers. At that point people just have to accept that they are in charge and trust that they have our best interests at heart. We’ll sort it out later.

    But by the same token the police contend that we should just “respect” their decisions and commands. While I teach my children to obey police commands, I also teach them that respect is earned not commanded. In reviewing judgment calls by our police in the past ten years I’m not always sure they deserve the respect that they are so eager to command.

    Now Guardian we all agree that the image of people getting pummelled by high powered water hoses is a powerful one from the early sixties in the civil rights movement but I sincerely doubt that a guy who missed last call is going to generate the same sympathy as a person engaged in civil disobedience to fight for the rights of citizenship. Also the tactic would likely backfire on a hot July night in downtown Boise. The crowd wouldn’t be likely to disperse at all. But it is truly disturbing that a command officer was groping for tactics not found in the playbook.

  13. To ensure safety in our little town I suggest BPD start practicing their shooting skills with tracer .223 M16 rounds at the foothills range. That will send a message to the rowdy hooligans that we mean business. Why do I avoid cops at all times and not trust them? Back in my college days (over 20yrs ago)I left a party late around 2:00am and was riding my bike home down Warm Springs. I had a left over 6 pack of beer on the bike rack. A lone cop drove by, got out of his car and tackled me to the ground, screamed profanities at me for being “scum”, confiscated my beer and drove off. Who you gonna call?

    So now that the Supreme Court says it’s ok for cops to not do the “knock and announce” before entering, will I be in trouble when I blow away a couple of cops as they bust into my house and bedroom by mistake instead of the crack house next door to me? How will I know it’s the cops anyway?

  14. I was working at the Qwest Arena for the Extreme Fighting. I think 75% (+ or – 5% based on a completely unscientific poll) of those in attendance were intoxicated to one degree or another when they left. The same 75% thought THEY were ultimate fighters (just an observation based on the way they were strutting around, staring each other down, and getting into fights in the Arena). It doesn’t surprise me that this spilled over into the streets downtown.

    I would agree with most of the posts that washing down citizens with high pressure hoses is not the greatest idea. BUT, I actually applaud the effort to think outside the box to try and diffuse a potentially explosive situation. The process worked – ideas were bounced around and a good option was chosen. Most current process improvement or problem solving methods encourage just that; list ALL potential solutions and then narrow the solution down to the best one based on input from the involved stakeholders. Had the officers done nothing, the media would crucify them. If the police opened fire with beanbags or other less-lethal options, again – crucifixtion. And dare I say… Advance a crowd in a skirmish line and actually USE PR24’s (night sticks) on people – the videos would be all over the news in a heartbeat. Talk about the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’.

    So… all of you Monday morning Police Commanders, tell me this: How would YOU disperse a crowd of drunks who are refusing to leave – while securing a stabbing victim and looking for 2 armed subjects? (and don’t say “ask them politely” because they were and it didn’t work – remember now… THEY’RE DRUNK and don’t want to listen to the Police because ‘they know better’) Let’s hear the suggestions 🙂

    Side note: I don’t get this Extreme fighting — two guys get in the ring, throw a punch or two, then fall to the floor & wrestle for position for the next 10 minutes until the fight’s done. BORING.

    EDITOR NOTE–Sounds like the booze peddlers at Quest arena and elsewhere need to be cracked down upon. It is illegal to serve someone who is intoxicated or “APPARENTLY INTOXICATED.” Do police allow intoxication inside the arena which will “spill over into the streets?”

  15. Give me a break, I love all the monday morning quarterbacking of the police tactics. The police dont just pick people at randum and harass or beat them down. Police have a very difficult job and they use the force nessary to deal with the situation. If you dont want to be pepper sprayed don’t challange the police to a fight.

  16. Wow TnT, how’s the weather in your world? It may not be “randum”, but I can assure you they don’t always use the force “nessary to deal with the situation”.

  17. And because I have an affinity for Sisyphus I will bolster his case a little. CASE IN POINT: They were going to use high pressure fire hoses when pepper spray would do/did the job. On the reasonable force continuum, I would say water cannon is up a couple of notches from pepper spray. Most officers have to be sprayed with pepper spray as a part of training. They know what it will do. I can’t think of a time when they were lined up and mowed down with a high pressure water hose. They don’t know what it will do. (Obviously the firefighters do) They have been known to escalate the use of force when it was not necessary, “randum” or not.

  18. Bert Farber
    Jul 19, 2006, 5:15 pm

    Sisyphus doesn’t think “a guy who missed last call is going to generate the same sympathy as a person engaged in civil disobedience to fight for the rights of citizenship.”
    What if that person who missed last call is blown off his feet by a powerful water hose, then cracks his skull on the sidewalk and dies.

  19. The “extreme fighting” at Qwest Arena is all about one thing MONEY, just like everything else in this greedy little town. If you think events like this are fun, wait until we get the convention center and they book the porn screen writers associaton meeting and tradeshow.

    I think they should have called it “Extreme Fighting for Democracy” , then everybody would have come out and behaved and consumed non-alcoholic beverages, gone home ,hugged the kids and wife, wake up refreshed the next day ready for work, like they do in Baghdad.

  20. “We don’t do that, so we said no.” I believe that the intent of the officer was to use a non lethal tool to disperse the crowd with little or no injury. I am positive that the hose would not have been used at full pressure. Unlike the time the “sacred” BFD used their hose to blow down a violent subject from on top of the Jack in the Box on Orchard a few winters ago. Did you forget about that Chief Hanneman??? We didn’t….

  21. It seems that many of the folks posting here don’t relly have a grasp on what police are faced with these days. Perhaps a fire hose may have not been at the top of the list, but dealing with an angry drunk crowd is not the easiest thing to do. People assume that you can just ask them to leave and they’ll listen, that’s just not reality. Have you been down to sixth and main lately? might as well be the ultimate fighting matches on the street…. If you want to understand the police rather than criticize as some of the armchair QB’s do, get educated like I did. Go to the police department and ridealong, you might be surprised how some of these “old Boiseans” have been acting lately. Don’t judge before you get educated……….

  22. Mojo, it seems fairly obvious that while one can’t forsee when a problem will occur in a bar, when one does occur, a prudent person gets the hell out of there. If you decide to stand on the sidewalk and “discuss” the proper action with the police, then getting blown over by a firehose is the least of your worries. (can you say bail money?)By the way, the comment about the 911 call was just plain dumb! You are way too intelligent for that.

  23. After reading these comments, I just can’t help but think that there are far too many people hooked on the past. Jeeze, half our population wasn’t even BORN in the 60s. I bet a greater percentage at the bars were not born in the 60s, and wouldn’t equate a good dousing in water with what they did in the 60s. I can see full-pressure water blast being good, but a lower one would be helpful. I for one, would NOT want to be outnumbered by a rowdy, drunken crowd. It seems to me, pepper spray is worse. With water, you loose your feet, and get wet. Go home, and dry off. With pepper spray, you loose vision, have a hard time breathing, and can have some side-effects. Yea, that sounds like a GREAT alternative.

  24. Hey Rod, it’s not just 20-somethings they don’t like. Cops have a low opinion of everybody except those who have power over them.

    Anyway, I expect this weekend might see an extra large crowd downtown, just to see if something will happen. And the cops will be expecting trouble, too. Funny things happen in crowds that expect trouble.

  25. Hey Rod and Razzbar, you remind me of alot of folks here in town, always criticizing but never suggesting solutions. try walking a mile in a cop’s shoes. Easy to point out the problem not so easy to be helpful with the solution.

  26. Seems everyone has missed the boat with the, “We don’t do that” quote, including this blog’s author.

    In emergency response training there is only ONE group who is in charge of security and crowd control – the police. When someone calls 911, no matter what the problem, a police officer is sent to the scene. Why? Because even if it is a fire, crowd control may be needed.

    Usually, the police car drives by or stays nearby because in these suburban areas they aren’t needed much. However, in some inner cities the police have been very much needed to insure the safety of paramedics and firefighters just so they can do their job.

    So the ‘We don’t do that” probably meant “We don’t work crowd control.” A firefighter’s job is to quelch fires and possibly offer emergency first aid, if they are also trained paramedics, but that is it. One day the BPD may own fire hoses themselves, in which case, we might see that tactic of crowd control used again.

  27. How about crediting this to The Statesman, which broke the story, instead of pretending it’s your own?

    Oh yea, I forgot newspapers are dead, it’s all about “the blogosphere” now! Please.

  28. Who cares where the story came from. Guardian stated “…the daily paper quoted spokeswoman…” How much more credit did you need? That, to those of us with enough snap to pick up on it means “the Statesman had the story before I did” or at least “before I posted it”. When was the last time the Statesman gave credit to the Guardian for getting the scoop on them? Yeah, I think not.

  29. Who cares where the story came from!?!?! Uh, that’s a pretty basic tenent of journalism. I, for one, care where the story came from so I can decide how much credibility I should give it.

    The Guardian attributed that QUOTE to the Statesman, but not the story, which is much more important.

    When was the last time the Statesman actually used a Guardian scoop? That’s what I thought.

    I like the Guardian, it serves a roll. But being a “content provider” myself, I’m sensative to one outlet stealing information from another outlet without credit. It takes resources to dig up and disseminate information. Only fair to give credit to those who do it.

  30. “Stealing” is a pretty big word for someone who, perhaps, doesn’t have his own story straight. EVEN IF (and that may not be the case here) Guardian picked the story up from the Statesman, I think “stealing” would be an inflammatory and misdirected term, since once it’s published it’s impossible to steal it. As for “it takes resources to dig up and disseminate information…”. It surely does…and perhaps Guardian (the person, not the forum) is better connected than many “daily” “content providers”. Just maybe, the Guardian stands as such a “resource”. I don’t expect everyone involved in this little bit of business to come forward and candidly explain who knew what and when, and who told whom and when, or who wrote what and when. I do think someone who claims to be a “content provider” should be beyond such sensitive proclivities.

  31. This discussion between John and Tam is disturbing. Tam’s right, the Guardian’s post properly sourced the material. He makes a mistake once in a while but he’s good at correcting mistakes when brought to his attention. Its not like this is his employment but he cares about getting it right. I appreciate having a ready forum on topics of the day and the fresh perspective the Guardian provides which is decidedly different from the daily paper. He also has sources the paper either chose not to cite or failed to locate with its superior resources. The disturbing part is a self proclaimed “content provider” more worried about the “stealing” of his content than using a dictionary.

  32. Inthemiddle
    Jul 27, 2006, 4:46 pm

    Is there any reason for not using fire hoses, other than the specter of 1960s civil rights days in Birmingham, Alabama?

    If fire hoses are to be banned for emotional reasons like these, that’s perfectly fine. I just want to know all the reasons against this practice. Really, is it any more or less risky than pepper spray?

    EDITOR NOTE–The spector of Birmingham civil rights protests should be enough. The real gist of this posting was far from the merits of one spray over another. The issue as the GUARDIAN saw it was a cop making a private call to the fire station (not via dispatch) asking about fire hoses when official police spokesman adamently denied that fire hoses would ever be used and a captain or deputy chief was quoted as saying he would never authorize use of fire hoses.

    Why the heck did the cop even check with fire and why didn’t he go through the chain of command? THAT is the issue. Imagine if fire department had honored the request. Would police brass hang the lieutenant or sergeant out to dry? (sorry, couldn’t resist that)

  33. Plus, if I might chime in, fire hoses on people who are protesting and alert with all their faculties about them causes one kind of impact. Fire hoses on a bunch of drunk people, the potential for injury and crowd trampeling is far greater.

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