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.
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.
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