Law Enforcement

City Cops or State Cops at Capitol?

Once again it is time to call for a Boise POLICE COMMISSION.

The commission would serve to relieve the chief from walking the fine line between defending his officers and representing the citizens–the roles are not always the same whether it be policy, budget, or conduct of officers.

Each time there is an incident involving questionable actions of officers, the community is split. There is the knee jerk reaction of some, claiming misconduct, excessive force, etc. On the other side is the cry from the cops that “you can’t complain until you have walked in the shoes of the patrolman on the street.” Joining that chant are those who say, “I support the police and they don’t get paid enough.”

Invariably there is a headline in the Daily Paper at the conclusion of investigations reading, “Officers Cleared…..” Missing in this process is any direction from the citizens. There is no community board to approve policy–or make policy–for the police. There is no board to direct the chief to conduct training and no citizen group to advise the chief (and the department) on what they want in the way of law enforcement.

Pierce Murphy, the ombudsman working for the city on behalf of the citizens, investigated and concluded the cops were wrong and used excessive force arresting at least one of the boys. Murphy’s position is that of “scientist.” He provides unbiased reports of the facts to the best of his ability. He has no authority to prosecute or implement change. He can recommend training just like any other citizen, but he is without authority to act. The GUARDIAN would like to see the ombudsman report to a police commission.

In the latest incident to reach the public eye, a couple of sons of an Idaho State Senator got pinched for vandalizing American Flags outside the Capitol Building–not the type of charge likely to elicit sympathy from patriotic Idahoans. One boy came to the verbal defense of his brother, the cops ordered him to leave, he didn’t.

Chief Mike Masterson defends his cops, but vowed to offer training and direction department-wide to prevent future incidents. Our experience with Masterson has been positive and we trust he will do as he says. We don’t know about the next chief and there is no police commission to insure ANY chief follows through.

An even bigger issue is the amount of Boise Police resources used to enforce laws in the Capitol Complex. Rather than a jurisdictional issue, it is one of whether the STATE police or the BOISE police should investigate car burglaries, larceny, and assault in State of Idaho facilities. If cash is stolen from the office of the State Treasurer who investigates? If someone is assaulted on the lawn, who investigates?

At Boise STATE University BPD is the campus police, but they are paid an annual fee of nearly three quarters of a million dollars to offset the costs to Boise taxpayers. We think Idaho should compensate Boise at the Capitol Mall as well. A police commission could work with the city council, the police, and the citizens to advocate such a policy.

UPDATE 1/24/08
Boise PD records show a grand total of only 7 calls for service at the Capitol complex during 2007. Hardly worth getting special funding from the legislature if the numbers are accurate. They do not include traffic control and extra troops for the various demonstrations which naturally happen at the Capitol…the big domed building has also been closed for nearly a year which could also skew the statistics.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Mark Richmond
    Jan 23, 2008, 10:24 am

    Why aren’t any of the MSM reporting the results of the criminal action against the boys????

    EDITOR NOTE–Daily paper reports one forfeited bond and the other got a withheld judgement following a jury trial.

  2. What exactly is a Forfeited bond and a withheld judgement anyhow?

  3. A witheld judgement is a conviction with the understanding that it will be removed from your record provided you don’t get into trouble in a certain time period.

    A bond forfeiture is paying a fine without pleading guilty and avoids going to trial and such. It’s an easy way out.

  4. I dont know about a forfeiture bond, but a witheld judgement is basically………. he did it, but if hes a good boy for a set period of time, pays the fines, and does what is asked, usually around a year, they will delete it from his record.

  5. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Jan 23, 2008, 5:02 pm

    Integral to the Accreditation of a Police Department and/or Academy that I’ve been harping about, ad nauseum, is the establishment of an Independent Citizens Oversight/Review Board.

    Like essentially ALL Government Services, citizens get exactly that which they demand.

    Or Tolerate!

    It’s a shame it took a State Senator’s Son to get folks to take the issue of the BPD’s Heavy-Handedness seriously.

    Though I no longer advocate the disbanding of the BPD… And they HAVE come a long way…

    The BPD still has a long way to go, and the status quo ain’t gonna get them there.

  6. It would be interesting to know if Mr. Murphy has attended the POST Academy in any type of an audit capacity. There is a thing call the “force continum” that is taught to all law enforcment personnel. And without knowing much more I will leave it at that.

    Helpful hint: when a cop tells you to do something it. You can sort out what was reasonable or unreasonable later in the courtroom. You never want to fail the “attitude test”. The cops are never going to lose an argument as they have a rule that they always win and want to go home everyday in one piece alive and well. They do not know you and will assume that you mean them harm when you are not cooperative.

    If you think things are not right ask that it be recorded and video taped from the unit in the car or on the officer and that you want a copy of that tape. It will keep things very polite if both sides know that things are getting recorded for later use.

  7. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 23, 2008, 7:56 pm

    I didn’t know that Mike Murphy favored the disbanding of the BPD. If he’d said that out loud maybe his candidacy would have gone farther.

    Paul may be right that the cops will never lose an argument, but I don’t know them either and given the BPD’s reputation, I would be inclined to assume that they mean me harm. And, since the final result of any investigation is “Officers cleared…”, a citizen can’t hope for a fair hearing from ANYBODY.

    The BPD needs to be brought under civilian control. IMO the cops are so violent because the courts are so lenient with criminals. If we brought back the gallows and public executions, and applied them mercilessly, maybe the cops wouldn’t be so defensive.

  8. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Jan 23, 2008, 9:14 pm


    I presume you meant the “Use of Force Continuum”. And yes, I know what it is.

    Video Cameras? Other LOCAL Law Enforcement Officers chided the BPD (on Channel 7, I believe it was) for it’s ABSENCE of cameras. A BPD Spokesman asserting that they served no purpose except in some narrow areas of Commercial Enforcement.

    Audio Recorders? Yeah, you go right ahead and ask the cop to turn on his recorder and see how far that gets ya.

    You want to “Honest-Up” the local cops toot-sweet?

    MANDATE audio and video recorders.

    GOOD Cops will be the first to agree.

    Just never in public. The Blue Wall and all.

  9. I haven’t had much encounter with the police – only crime I have committed (or will own up to) is overparking. However I have observed the BPD in action and the Sheriff’s Dept. and would prefer being arrested by the Sheriff’s guys. BPD guys seem to have a serious attitude problem and can only assume it has to do with where they were trained and by whom.

    Of course it is a scary job and I admire people who take on this kind of work, but like someone else mentioned, I kind of liked it when they were called “peace officers” instead of “law enforcement officers.” You weigh those words “peace” and “enforcement” and peace wins every time. In my humble opinion.

  10. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Jan 23, 2008, 10:25 pm

    Rod in SE Boise,

    Your killing me here! Kill-ing me!

    ; )

  11. Rod and others…
    Having seen real bad cops in other parts of the US (NOLA, Memphis, Atlanta, New Jersy, Washington DC, and other places for example)I would place BPD and ACSO both against them ANY day of the week for courtesy, and for fairness.

    Paul had it right, although perhaps his explanation was lost on 99% here.
    he said…
    “… as they have a rule that they always win and want to go home everyday in one piece alive and well. They do not know you and will assume that you mean them harm when you are not cooperative.”

    In todays world with todays society..a layer of “citizens” most here have no CLUE about (ever have human ejaculate thrown at you just because?) avoiding those situations involves certain street smarts. Simple street smarts that involve certain tactics that often appear heavy handed, but save peoples lives (including the public).

    You want to avoid heavy handed tactics? Heres an idea:


    Believe it or not, all the cops prefer a polite interaction to a violent one.

    Just as your daddy always told you to say “sir” to a cop if you got pulled over? Same principle applies. You are never going to get out of a ticket, or have a ticket downgraded, being an ass.

    I’m not justifying excessive force, simply stating that most people in here have no idea what excessive force is. Or how to shot a gun under fire. Or how a taser is supposed to be used. Or even what the force continuum is. Or how to safely interact with an unstable unknown threat in an uncontrolled situation. Or anything involving police tactics for the street other than what they saw on CSI, Opra, the ACLS newsletter or read in SOF magazine.

    Educate your selves. Do MULTIPLE rides. See the underside. ASK questions of the officers on the street today. ANd all the ime ask yourself..could YOUR do any better. Unless your delusional, 99% of the time the answer is …no. In fact, most of us would be ineffective at best, or injured or worse.

    Or say “BAhhhh” and go along with 99% of the population who would simply sit back and bash PD because…well…just because.
    And BTW, 99% of the time I see cops talking with citizens (and I see a lot), the red light (audio recorder) is “on”.

    Finally, what we dont need is a police commission, we need a public safety commission, looking at all of our entire public safety system.

  12. You know there is a very simple solution….DONT BREAK THE LAW>>>

  13. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Jan 24, 2008, 8:08 am

    As TJ observed…

    How come the Deputies of the Ada County Sheriff’s Department can perform essentially the same duties as the BPD with greater professionalism, aplomb and downright civility? Could it be because thier leader is an ELECTED Official?

    Duckman, Nemo, et al…

    Are you @#%^&* kidding me? “Don’t break the Law…”?!? Next you’ll be telling us there’s no innocent people in prison due to police and prosecutorial misconduct!

    As the new Police Chief of Newark, New Jersey remarked about abuses under the leadership of his predecessor: “It’s not productive to speculate further on whether or not officers used appropriate force in a given situation. What CAN be said unequivocally is that officers ignored multiple opportunities to deescalate situations so that use of force was unnecessary”.

    Once again I’ll state that Mandated use of Audio-Visual recording will both go a long way to “Honest-Up” the cops AND virtually eliminate frivolous accusations of police misconduct.

    And Again… GOOD Cops welcome these devices.

  14. Rod, the BPD IS under civilian control. It’s called the Mayor and City Council.

    If you have a problem with the BPD, they are your redress. If you have a problem with the Mayor and Council, that is what elections are for. If nobody steps up to run decent campaigns articulating the isses and the citizens don’t require that, then we get what we deserve.

  15. Guy Bourgeau
    Jan 24, 2008, 3:42 pm

    Mr. Murphy,
    I tend to refrain from commenting on these blogs as it seems that I would be fighting an uphill battle. As for these vague references and third hand stories that people and yourself keep referring to, I think it is only fair that when these accusations are made, you provide specifics. It is unfair to make these generalizations without backing them up.

    As for video and audio, we welcome them wholeheartedly. They might actually dispel some of these fictional stories. Problem is that the money just simply is not there. When we have to scrape to get what we need to work, luxuries such as video equipped cars is something we simply cannot afford.

    We welcome any and all oversight, but with a couple of qualifications, that it be someone who has the experience and background and that there is due process for the officer accused. It is unfair to have one person (Ombudsman) who is completely autonomous and without any checks for his work.

    I state this publicly, for your benefit Mr. Murphy and if you’d like, I can get you a long list of officers that will do the same.

    I don’t normally like to get into an online debate but it gets difficult when a great department keeps getting bashed with baseless comments. It’s only fair that assertions be factually based rather than “What I heard”.

    And yes I am a Boise Police Officer.

  16. I side with sara on this issue.
    Boise Police do agood job.

    Mike Murphy if you want the police to have the equiptment you suggest, then be my guest and go buy it for them.

  17. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 24, 2008, 5:15 pm

    Sara, I am well aware that the Mayor and City council are supposed to exercise civilian control over the BPD. The implication of my statement was that they are not exercising that control.

    I DID vote in the last election. The incumbent mayor’s opponent was a former BPD’er and advocated more spending and more officers. We were not offered any real choice in that election, whether it concerned growth or the BPD.

  18. Rod, I know we had no choice, hence my statement that “if nobody steps up to run decent campaigns articulating the issues and the citizens don’t require that, then we get what we deserve.”

    In other words, you could run.

  19. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Target
    Jan 24, 2008, 7:42 pm

    Dear “Officer” Bourgeau,

    Easy does it tiger…

    I’d hardly call a Local News Organization’s coverage of the A-V issue, with on camera opinions of other local law enforcement, “Vague References”.

    I’ve advocated A-V equipment, yes. Though I, nor anyone with half-a-brain expects it to fall from the sky free of charge.

    I’ve advocated a Citizens Review Board, Yes. Constructed in accordance with accepted and Accredited Guidelines. Not an “Empire Builder”.

    And I KNOW many officers advocate these things, and personally spoke with some of them in front of City Hall during the Police Union Picket last year. A VERY Professional Officer Casey Hancuff was one, and he single-handedly made me abandon my previous opinion that the BPD be disbanded outright.

    I’ve also met a few “Blackwater Wannabes” over the years.

    Please allow me to state AGAIN for the record…

    I believe that the Boise Police Department is home to a great many dedicated professionals. But as an organization it’s about as screwed-up as they come. And the dedicated professionals such as Officer Bourgeau deserve our respect and support with better training, better equipment and better leadership. In short – A Better BPD.

    And Bonnie, et al,

    If you can provide a guarantee that their use will be MANDATED, I WILL buy a Video Camera and Audio Recorder for 1 Patrol Car and 1 Police Officer!


    Ain’t Democracy Fun?

  20. Murphy,

    I am a local Police Officer, and will tell you that several departments, as well as the one I work for have a policy that basically says ‘every contact with a citizen is to be recorded.’

    I record all my contacts, and have to push a button to turn my recorder off/on, or to pause it.

    That being said, the recorder is an electronic device, and very small. It doesn’t always work correctly, and I am not making excuses. My recorder has stopped recording, or paused/stopped in several ‘use of force’ incidents. Not because I stopped it, or even touched it, but rather from the shock against it, and from being jarred around. I attribute this to something like a CD player skipping, but I don’t know for sure.

    Several people have questioned why the recorder was off in this case, or in the Matthew Jones case. I wasn’t the Officer on either of those, so I couldn’t answer that question for sure. I will tell you that the recorder has to be turned on manually. When you are a Police Officer responding to a ‘hot’ call, or getting into a foot pursuit, fight, etc…the last thing on our mind is usually to reach down and find the little button that will record the contact. For one, you have to take your focus away from the threat at hand, or your driving, putting us at further risk.

    It is a tragedy when officers are forced to use deadly force, but the last thing in our mind should be what the media is going to report about the incident, and whether or not we covered oursevles by turning on the recorder. Obviously our word will not be good enough.

  21. LJ–Not to be unkind, but your word indeed is not “good enough.” That is why we have courts. Our system considers ALL the people you arrest to be innocent until proven otherwise (and you only arrest the guilty ones because you KNOW they are guilty). You can probably say with a straight face you have never written a “bad ticket” or jailed an innocent man. If you have more than a year or two under your belt you can’t say you have never lost a case or had it reduced.

    If your word was “good enough” there would be no need for the courts or trials. On the flip side, I will bet you a day off the ombudsman feels the same way–he has never come back with a negative report that wasn’t deserved.

    A fair and balanced oversight of not just the cops, but of the ombudsman AND the city council is always in order the the citizens are the ones to do it.

    Another commenter said he wouldn’t mind oversight if the people were “qualified.” Any citizen who cares about the community and knows the difference between right and wrong is qualified. You know them most often as Jurors and they overwhelmingly find the people you arrest to be guilty. If they were “qualified” by being former cops, trained in police tactics and proceedures or “pro law enforcement” they would never make the jury and would also not be the peopel I would LOGICALLY want on a commission.

  22. Mr. Logic-

    I agree that the court system has its place, and I of course have lost cases before, or had them plead down. The court system (in theory) is the balance for law enforcement.

    Some of the media, and a few commentators are of the opinion that if it isn’t recorded, but I claim it happend – then I am a liar. That is what I meant by my comment.

    The average person’s perception of a ‘cop’ is from what they watch on TV, or see in the media. Shows like: The Shield, CSI, NYPD Blue, etc are entertainment shows, and don’t represent the real world. This is what makes it difficult for a non-law enforcement person to oversee the police department. It is like me telling a stockbroker how to do their job.

    I would have no problem with a civilian oversight board, but give them training first. Have them go through the academy…it gives them a basis for understanding why we react the way we do.

  23. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Tenor
    Jan 24, 2008, 10:24 pm

    The best thing about this debate, is that it’s happening at all. And moreover, ALLOWED to happen.

    There still exist today places where innocent people are being beaten, tortured and murdered at this very moment by agents of their governments for speaking out against corruption and injustice.

    Democracy is imperfect and messy. And I love it!

    The Law Enforcement Officers who have taken the time to stick their necks out and express their opinions in defense of the noble profession they have chosen appear to be among the vast majority of Good Cops.

    Please… Don’t let your zeal, or the siege mentality of “The Blue Wall” blind you to the few Bad Ones who wear the badge.

    YOUR community deserves better.

    YOU deserve better.

  24. “Any citizen who cares about the community and knows the difference between right and wrong is qualified. ”

    I cant disagree more.

    Individuals are smart. People are stupid. I am sure that the citizens at the salem witch trials KNEW they were right. I am sure that slave owners KNEW they were right. I am sure that the spanish inquisistion KNEW they were right. I am sure that every jurer who has ever set a guilty man free or convicted an innocent man KNEW they were right too. I can point to several , (dozens, hundreds even) things we KNEW in medicine, that we know KNOW aint true. There are things about public safety (such as more paramedics save lives?)….things that the public “Knows”, that simply aint true. Yet you cant change perception, regardless if it is confronted with facts or not.

    What you are really saying is that Belief and passion are a substute for knowledge.

    Well history is full of examples , recent and distant, large and small, where belief is the most dangerous thing in the world when not tempured by reason.

    Anyone, an officer, a teacher, a doctor, even the public (say a black man in the south , or a Jew in palistine), all should fear “belief”. It is irrational. It is violent. It is petty. It is biased. It is NOT the same as knowledge, training, and education.

    So while the idea of a public commision is a worthy idea, it is useless with out representation of the very people is is meant to look over. Even IRBS (institutional review boards) mandate certain composition that includes experts in cetain fields to ensure a diverse, detailed, and unbiased review.

  25. Mike Murphy, Bull Moose Target
    Jan 25, 2008, 11:26 am


    I’d have to say I agree with you. To a degree.

    That’s why we need an “Accredited Citizens Oversight Board”, and not laypersons.

    For more information regarding this and Police Accreditation in general, please visit:

  26. Mike: We agree? Whoa?!?!?!
    Seriously….Interesting reading, and has many similarities (and some interesting but important differences) when compared to the accredation process for some other industries, like health care.
    Anyway, I’m having problems finding the part about an accreditation process for citizen oversight committees. Do you have a better link?

    Also, just a curiosity on my part?
    Dave: What is the history behind the badge you have displayed on this article?

  27. Great discussion here. I just hope they hire some of the new POST cadets at the state capitol so they can dish out some PTSD on the legislators and the governor. Why don’t they just hire volunteer militia types who might be willing to guard the capitol for free? Those folks have belief and tons of passion. Think of the tax savings. Oh.. dang, I forgot. Freedom isn’t free.

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