City Government

Ombudsman Departure Signals Need For Police Commission

With the departure of Boise Police Ombudsman Pierce Murphy, citizens are left without an advocate who is not beholding to the coppers.

Murphy is unique in that he made the rules for his job and ended up with a national rep for fair handed oversight of coppers. He has left for a similar post in Seattle which has been rocked by police abuse of force issues so bad the city is under a Federal Court order.

Boise Chief Mike Masterson has done a fine job cutting crime, reining in copper abuse for the most part, and administering the department, but he is still a copper. He has to run a budget of nearly $62 million, establish policy and be the boss of more than 300 coppers, while keeping citizens and politicos happy. We think it was easier in some respects with Ombudsman Murphy looking over his shoulder.

Before Murphy came along–and he was the third choice of former Mayor Brent Coles–the GUARDIAN editor and other citizens advocated a “POLICE COMMISSION.” The commission idea needs to be resurrected. It would operate just like Parks, Public Works, Library, Airport, Planning & Zonning–a citizens advisory panel. We would suggest the ombudsman position be retained, but he/she should work for the police commission.

As we envision the board, it would not be involved with personnel matters, but serve as a sounding board for the chief, giving citizens a voice in policy and budget matters. As it is today, while we may have a good chief at present, we could just as easily end up in the same position we were in before. We would also have no objection to combining Police and Fire as a “Public Safety” board. Fire is number two consumer of citizen tax money.

While citizens have a voice in the other “lesser” departments, we have no voice in the policy or guidance of the single biggest department in the city–Police. For the council to claim it serves the oversight position is simply without foundation.

When we asked about the personal use of more than 123 city-owned vehicles, coppers claimed it took 5 hours to just gather how many take home cars they had and how much a vehicle costs. Obviously the council wasn’t aware of the numbers because it took nearly a full day for the cops themselves to learn.

To date, we haven’t heard anything from any members of the council regarding the REVELATIONS made last week about police cars.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. You should know by now, you can’t police the police.

  2. Maybe it’s time to let the Sheriff police Boise City (and Garden City). An elected sheriff is responsible to the ultimate commission–the voters. Although with the pitiful turnout for municipal elections, maybe not.

  3. Murphy was unique. Competent, fair, and apparently immune to political pressures. A unique public servant in a high profile position.

    I remain highly skeptical of commissions. Too often, local government commissions include incompetent people, yes-men, and the like. Powers and duties are not understood or respected. A partisan political slant is often pronounced, even though partisanship is not supposed to be a criterion. While I am not totally opposed to the idea, I guess I remain highly skeptical and wishing Murphy would have stayed on the job forever.

    EDITOR NOTE–At least with a commission of six, you don’t have total authority resting on one set of shoulders. Remember the first choice for ombudsman was a woman who said during her acceptance speech, “all things being equal I would come down on the side of the police.” She was gone the next day. After that mess, #2 choice withdrew and we got lucky with Murphy.

  4. Rod in SE Boise
    Jul 9, 2013, 11:05 am

    Guardian, I agree. The police need to be supervised, no matter how difficult it may appear. The current chief has curbed most of the abuses of the past, but……

    Any appearance of militarization needs to be stopped.

    The police also need fewer laws to enforce. Decriminalize pot and deregulate alcoholic beverages would be a good start.

  5. Dear Editor: I would love to see you run as you see things as they are and not what many want things to be or place under a carpet. We’d expect you to keep up this job as well though for sure as you do it so extrodinary well.

    EDITOR NOTE–Hard to do both! I think the GUARDIAN is a pretty safe location since I can’t be fired and the boss is superb! Pay however sucks. 🙂

  6. Why yet another commission? A good Ombudsman is all we can afford and another commission just makes for more big government, costing us payers lots more.

    I’m rapidly becoming a stop big guvmint advocate. Our state income taxes are already unfair and too high and bigger govt. just adds to the pain——– and contempt.

    EDITOR NOTE–No extra cost. Citizen volunteers serve on all the commissions for free.

  7. Rod I am just curious. What abuses are you aware of that this “Chief” has cleaned up?

  8. Tuesday’s cop car crash downtown is a good example of why community oversight of police policies and procedures is a good idea. A witness indicated that there were lights on the police vehicle, but no siren. I hope this event is not swept under the rug and am thankful that nobody was seriously hurt.

    Mr. Murphy did a very good job. I didn’t always agree with his findings, but I feel he was fair and most certainly thorough. He’ll be a hard act to follow, but either his position must be filled or better yet, a public services commission be set up to keep a close eye on ALL the city and county’s emergency agencies.

  9. It’s all window dressing. The ombudsman presented the illusion to the public that they somehow have a voice in city government and police issues. We don’t. The comment about Murphy doing a good job is interesting. Good job of WHAT? A couple of cops uttered a profanity, were felt to be rude or went 35 in a 30 and Murphy does his 3 month investigation presents his findings and the issue is over. All one has to do is read the investigative reports on his website to realize the city is paying a man 80k a year to do what? Present the obvious. Ironically even Murphy does not even know what he doesn’t know ( or does he?)
    The ONLY way a citizen review board can function effectively and without the danger of ONE individual becoming overly impressed with himself is through subpoena power. Otherwise what you end up with is exactly what Boise ended up with. A political flunky who for the most part simply goes through the motions of policing the police. Some of his investigative reports are quite amusing: overly complicated, fixated on meaningless details, but elegantly written. “Window dressing”.
    There is a very clear line however in terms of what can be done. There are some police issues that are so complicated and so deep that it may require a FEDERAL investigation to sort a mess out. This is way beyond the scope of the average citizen to understand or even know where to begin.
    There is also the issue of the media: like it or not they have a RESPONSIBILITY to the public to keep these guys in line….and not so much the average cop but the political brokers at the upper echelons of the police department. Plausible deniability doesn’t work anymore. Remaining isolated to remain ignorant is no longer acceptable.
    Having said all that I do find it interesting that because tax dollars are involved this issue is so hot. The vast majority or corruption and money laundering, immoral behavior etc is NOT in the average police ranks: it is in the private sector. But this department seems to have a very bad image with the public here.

    EDITOR NOTE–Gotta disagree. Murphy’s last investigation is featured in the Daily Paper. Coppers treated a guy–admittedly drunk–disrespectfully without cause, a supervisor threatened the man with arrest when he complained of mistreatment and even the Chief says it was wrong…ALL after passing the internal affairs system. Murphy and his office performed a service.

  10. Are you kidding me. READ THE ARTICLE!!!! This is a no win situation in this town. Your upset that someone parked in front of your house while your house is being burglarized. This city deserves what it is going to get. So long.

  11. I have just read the LAST completed Ombudsman Investigative report. I am STILL laughing hysterically. You just don’t get it.

  12. steve lewis
    Jul 10, 2013, 7:37 pm

    Been gone awhile, but its time again. Really, this latest “investigation” found that a supervisor was “disrespectful” to a drunk who had been passed out on steps somewhere, and made a totally bogus complaint against an officer. The supervisor didn’t swear at him, nor threaten him. He told him a fact, you can be charged with making a false police report if you file a complaint that is found to be totally not factual, or in this case, a lie. from what I read, the supervisor did his job, did a report to internal affairs, and god like Pierce Murphy didn’t like his verbage to him, so he decides it is not right. I think Murphy just wanted one more “see I told you so” before he left!

    EDITOR NOTE–You are missing the point here, Lewis. The super is on tape telling the guy, “”We’re done. We’re not listening to you. Not listening to you. Go to jail.” Neither Murphy or your chief believe there was any improper use of force.

    The error was the treatment of the drunk. Your boss said, “The interaction with (the suspect) by the supervisor did not meet the standards we expect and that we train for. This is why the audit process is in place. I appreciate (Murphy’s) office reviewing these reports, and although discrepancies are found in a very small percentage, it reinforces the value of these audits.”

    The super was just like some of the haters who post here claiming all coppers are liars. Difference is those folks can’t send you to jail for littering. Don’t know how long you’ve been around, but I remember a Boise copper not listening to a couple of girls who reported a rape or attempt along the greenbelt. The copper gave the same “false report” warning to the girls and ignored them. The next victim was murdered and stuffed into a farm sewage lagoon. Cases like that one are why we got the ombudsman in the first place. The take away lesson: LISTEN!

  13. So, when the supervisor “LISTENED” to the liar, he determined it was not a true allegation, and he still wrote it up as he was supposed to. So, again, verbage, verbage, verbage, is all that is the problem. If what is said by some is a problem, which does not include any swearing or threats, then this city does not have much to worry about. As you say in some of your rants, I am closing this now!

  14. Rod in SE Boise
    Jul 11, 2013, 11:49 am

    To answer Blaskowitz: A while ago, the cops killed a guy who was holed up in a crawl space and brandishing a soldering gun, yes, a soldering gun. Then there was the time the cops killed a teenager in his front yard with his father watching. The father had called the cops for help because he couldn’t control the kid and the kid had some kind of antique .22 rifle. (thanks for the “help”) Then there was the time the cops chased a guy down the connector and got him stopped at Broadway and Myrtle and killed him while using up about a gazillion rounds of ammo. Then there was the time the cops had a wild shootout with two rednecks from Pennsylvania somewhere near 15th and Idaho. I can’t recall any such incidents under the new chief.

    About Pierce Murphy: he seems to be a nice guy but generally sided with the cops in his reports (I have read several of them, but not recently). He usually sided with the cops but would recommend additional training (I suppose to appear fair and balanced).

  15. Rod in SE Boise
    Jul 11, 2013, 11:52 am

    And there was also the time some immigrant was inappropriately (to say the least) tasered and the city had to pay him off to keep him from sueing and ending up owning all of downtown Boise.

  16. The problem with commissions is the Mayor appoints them and the city council approves them. If anyone gets out of line their term of office is one term appointment. It takes a period of time to get up to speed with policy and procedures as well as knowing people on the force.

    I don’t have any knowledge of Police Commissioners but it looks like a thankless job.

  17. steve lewis
    Jul 11, 2013, 3:34 pm

    God bless Rod, get your facts straight if you want to be believeable, guy with soldering gun was hidden, and put it out as a real gun pointing it at officers and lived. Kid with rifle had a japanese WW II rifle with a 18″ bayonet attached, and did strike the officer with it. If your going to rant, get it right.

    EDITOR NOTE–Lewis is right on this one. Let’s try to be constructive, discuss the need for oversight and not rehash 10 years of history.

  18. I can relate to the prior’s that Rod in SE mentions. There was a great deal of make-up on these situations and particularly of the kid shot down.

    Meridian isn’t any better as there was a youngman whom the family called for help. He was shot down. Two reports had conflicting stories the officers provide how I new the family and knew what really happened. Reports can only work with what is provided to them however some one has to clean house with these police departments as situations all vary but I think each officer should carry a tape recorder that can’t be ‘adjusted’ when they make up their reports. It’s a political family and they do cover themselves but there are internal issues we can’t know about. Many good intended officers have left due to this. Ada County Sheriff’s office is the same as they create situations that do not need to be. Then we wonder why our prisons are so Overstocked. Hello world. I’ve read so many bogus reports from witnessing situations over the years.

    Crupels. One older officer I spoke with a few years past said he believed the violence of officers was due to many L.A. officers transfering here and being more aggressive in suituations. He was actually black balled from younger officers (Meridian) whom contradicted his own statements.

    We are putting camera’s up all over town but what needs to happen is make sure they aren’t tampered with and in place to make sure they do what is meant to be peaking of Funding. They do this on the streets to issue traffic tickets in the mail.
    We seriously need an Unbias board none associated individuals whom have nothing to gain with an either or situation but see it as it is or was.

    Idaho Deparment of Corrections is in the same horrific situation – there can not be any profit associated with placing judgements when it’s associated with Legal matters.

  19. My god people, do you think anyone is worthy of you all???? BPD, MPD, ACSO and IDOC, all are corrupted, excessive force using departments that know nothing and lie about everything!!! Just because you know someone in a family that has been involved in a situation, does not mean they are telling you the truth. Again, Ombudsman is the discussion here.

    If a civilian oversight is going to be set up, let it be a volunteer committee, with a cross section of young, old, busines owners, blue collar, white oollar, and yes even a police officer to explain and interpert department policy and law for them. This would give this city a committe of peers looking at issues their own peers are having problems with. It would also let a variety of people see what officers deal with that always does not make the news etc etc.

    EDITOR NOTE–Lewis, there is hope for you! What you advocate is exactly what I have sought for more than 20 years. It doesn’t need to be a “civilian review board,” but rather a chance to give citizens a voice in the operation, policy, and funding of the largest department in city government. Welcome aboard. Also, the negative comments illustrate how one bad apple can spoil public perception for a long time. When and if the Feds come down with the decision regarding the narc situation it will signal another bumpy stretch.

  20. Cops are not lawyers editor… and are often wrong interpreting law… which is why we need a pannel in the first place. I’d suggest a criminal practice lawyer on the pannel to interpret the law. If the pannel becomes too big however it becomes too slow.

  21. PS: I also think we need a review pannel for a number of the lower courts in Idaho since many of the judges are not lawyers either… sometimes leading to the same problem we have with the police. Might cut down on appeals?

    EDITOR NOTE–Zippo, I am not aware of a single judge who is not a lawyer. Can you name just one? We did away with lay magistrates years ago after eliminating the justices of the peace.

  22. Dave this has been needed for years, one person should not have this power.

    Officer Lewis, yes we think some people are worthy, unfortunately with the attitude you are espousing I would say you are not one.

    Remember this, LE are public servants that should have public oversight and supervision. Unfortunately this is not the standard in the LE industry.

    Deb does have a very valid point. There are way too many (former) members of the Cali LE industry working in this valley. Unfortunately the BCC attitude that has come here with them will not fly here. A point that it seems BPD in particular is incapable of understanding. The LE industry is completely out of control and there seems to be an attempt to gain absolute power and we all know that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I can agree with you that there needs to be a liaison from the LE industry involved in the process. I would suggest that the person be a member of senior staff. They would be charged with explaining dept. policy in certain situations but would have NO vote in any decisions.
    The oversight “commission” should have power to sanction offenders (cops) and also effect policy changes dept. wide. Lets face it, just because something is done IAW with policy doesn’t always make it right, legal and right are not synonymous.

  23. Rod in SE Boise
    Jul 12, 2013, 12:34 pm

    My “facts” were pretty close to the truth and I cited those examples to illustrate why an ombudsman was hired in the first place. That oversight and the new chief seem to have reduced the excesses of the past.

    Some people automatically jump to the conclusion that whatever some “authority figure” says is the absolute truth. Others are skeptical and think the opposite.

  24. Rod the reason the ombudsman was originally designated was because of the rash of shootings in the 97-98 time frame..not because of the issues you mentioned. But I misinterpreted your original posting. I thought you were saying the Chief had cleaned up the problems with BPD.

  25. To clarify this murky issue: the city of Boise needs a review board of some sort with subpoena power. This Board would review issues of a SERIOUS nature (and NO demeanor, language and manners are NOT serious issues requiring an $80k yearly salary flunky to investigate). Excessive force, critical incidents,GRAND THEFT, DRUG ABUSE etc are SERIOUS issues that may or MAY NOT require oversight. If an Ombudsman were allowed to enter the average private sector workplace to investigate the same type of complaints filed with the current police ombudsman there wouldn’t be an employee left standing. I am VERY interested in knowing what criteria this Ombudsman uses when he determines what to investigate and what not to investigate. It would appear from reading his investigative reports that anyone who is upset over being arrested or getting caught in a lie files a complaint and he investigates it. I wonder if the Ombudsman has ever declined to investigate any incident, such as allegations of a felony or criminal behavior on the part of a police officer and why he may have chosen not to do so. Who sets the standards for what is investigated and what is not? The Mayor? The Chief? The ombudsman? If it is the Ombudsman that is POWER………and no one man needs to have that much.

    EDITOR NOTE–Like video dash cameras, the Ombudsman should be no threat to coppers who do the right thing. We certainly hope he has not turned down investigations following a complaint from a citizen. The whole idea of the office was to give citizens an ear. Previously they were turned down summarily by whomever happened to be a supervisor. What we all are after here is TRUTH. The way the office is set up, the power rests with the chief. Ombudsman offers an opinion, but has no authority. The value of that opinion is gauged by the integrity of the ombudsman.

  26. Deb

    They all do wear recorders and the recordings are transcribed by a secretary and then erased at least according to Det. Chuck Albanese, BPD recruiter. Has no one really questioned why the public is harassed when trying to record or take pictures of any police actions? If their version is the only one out there it’s rather hard to dispute.

    Rod you are very accurate in that the public sees anyone arrested by the LE industry as guilty… if they weren’t guilty LE wouldn’t arrest them. If only that belief was even remotely correct.

    I will say again the LE industry has NO oversight, they make policy and enforce it as they see fit. LE needs adult supervision, the courts do not provide it, the legislature can not be bothered and unfortunately if the people demand it… well that will not be allowed.

  27. Yes we certainly hope not. That would surely tarnish the Ombudsman’s image as he settles in to his new job ….out of state …..and possibly put a spotlight on all of his other very detailed and meaningless investigative reports over the years. If nothing else Boise has the freshest faced well-mannered non profanity uttering “19 mph in a 20mph zone drivers” in the history of this fine country. GOOD WORK Pierce. Now it’s time for the big dogs to take over and see what they can dig up. I’m sure it is more than you could from under the porch.

  28. It is very needed in many ways. Any individual whom is approached by any officer whether it be on the road or your home and whom does not have a witness nor tape recorder with them at the moment can be toast in a court room if they feel they have been wrong.
    I personally have not had issues personally but am fully aware of many whom have and recommend each individual also carry a note pad within their vehicles.
    This is especially important if the indiviual had any priors as they are open bate toward allegations. Even they need a means to take their situations.

  29. Chief Mike Masterson
    Jul 15, 2013, 2:17 pm

    Just to clarify the policy on digital recorders, their use, and retention. Officers are required by policy to record all “law enforcement contacts”. There is a “no deletion” policy, thus no erasing. Since 2003 all digital recordings have downloaded onto a server. Since 2012 they are attached to the case numbered report or if no number exists are simply filed by officer name, date and time. Recordings are not transcribed unless a detective requests them to be.

    Prior to 2003, Recordings were on “micro-cassette” tapes. Unless they were crimes I doubt any of the tapes are still around.

    More info on Department policies available to our citizens at:

  30. Thanks Chief, Overall I’m happy with local coppers… but know the coppers need watching so it does not evolve into a copper’s come first and the public last kinda department.

    What do you think of the Murphy replacement situation?

    And do you think we’ll ever be able to access the NSA recordings of all communications for criminal cases?

    Also, are the cell phone coversations, which have become the officer’s primary link to the public and often other officers,… are these cell phone calls also recorded?

  31. Thanks for the link, Chief. Is there a formal policy on citizen’s recording officer’s actions (video or audio)? I know it’s an issue nationally and didn’t see anything in the PDF about it.

    EDITOR NOTE–Not speaking on behalf of the department, but the general rule is you can make photos or videos as long as you don’t interfere with or obstruct the coppers doing their job.

  32. Chief Mike Masterson
    Jul 16, 2013, 3:18 pm

    Dave’s right , there is no policy as long as it doesn’t obstruct an investigation. It’s not a simple answer based on the totality of the circumstances invovled. If a person standing on a sidewalk wants to run a video of an officer making an arrest,it’s entirely legal. But, if that same person walks into the street and insists on standing next to the officer while they are struggling and attempting to arrest for the purpose of videotaping the arrest and was warned to stand on the sidewalk and refused to comply, yes they could be arrested. Regarding a citizen taking pictures, don’t be offended but when a citizen complains of someone taking a picture of them we generally investigate to make sure it’s legal behavior. You may be taking photos of planes landing at the airport and a citizen calls in a suspicious person and yes we would generally respond and ask for an explanation. What happens when it’s your 17 year old daughter downtown with a friend and they observe a man taking their pictures, not once but several times? Yes, we investigate.

    Our recording policy is presumed to be face to face, in person so cell phone calls generally are not recorded. (We dont provide the equipment to do so)except for sgts on their desk lines for conversations with complainants etc. We generally dont see disputes with victim statements as we are driving to calls but when dealing with complainants it’s another matter. It’s a fact, digital audio recordings do tend to exonerate officers in the overwhelming majority of times.

    As for the future of the Ombudsman, that decision will be with elected officials with many of the comments offered by readers pro and con,being taken into account. Hope this information helps.

    EDITOR NOTE–HEre is a timely news report from Detroit.

  33. Chief and Dave,

    I am not disputing policy I am simply relaying what Det. Albanese told us in the Intro to Policing class he taught on Gowen in 2011. He may have been mistaken and quoted procedures in place when he worked for LAPD.

    EDITOR NOTE–I trust the officer has now been informed of the “facts, just the facts sir,” as another LAPD copper of TV fame used to say.

  34. What’s the law on this around here, and how does the public search their record to see who searched their record?

  35. I wonder if the Chief would be kind enough to comment on this story, Study finds police are recording license plates by the millions in a dragnet with few rules. It ran in the Washington Post today.

    Here is the full URL

  36. Chief Mike Masterson
    Jul 18, 2013, 11:04 am

    tom, as new technology arrives each day that enhances our ability to make our communities safer , i”m in favor. Whether it’s recovering stolen cars, apprehending a susect on an amber alert and safety recovering the vicitms or locating violent fugitives, all based on a license plate, are legitimate intersts of law enforcement. We used a loaned vehicle with plate reader technology on a couple of occassions about five years ago for a short period of time. We entered in all of our stolen car plates. Proved to be so ineffective for us in Boise (because of so few stolen cars) it was never offered again. We have not used the technology since nor do we have plans in the future for it.

    I agree with setting the rules. While I want to utilize technology to the fullest extent possible in the 8 hours i perform this job; the other 16 hours i spend as a regular citizen i dont want an overbearing , intrusive government in my personal life. There needs to be rules and if police agencies using this technology can’t police themselves then someone else will…be it Congress or the courts. Hope that helps.

  37. Chief

    I would like to thank you for answering my concern. I agree totally that there are legitimate reasons for using the technology but there is a massive amount of abuse possible. I am not in anyway trying to insinuate this is going on in BPD and a response as fast as yours reassures me greatly.

    I am also glad to see that you keep abreast of formats such as this. For those of us who are “skeptical” to say the least of LE’s regard for citizen concerns it is very refreshing to be able to have a dialog in an open and honest format.

  38. Use the plate readers to cross refference those with/without insurance… would save us all money on car insurance.

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