City Government

Questions & Answers For Top Copper

BPD PATCHThis is the first for what we anticipate will be a series of responses.
As Chief Mike Masterson prepares to sing his swan song after more than 10 years as Boise’s top copper, he has agreed to have a “good-bye session,” with GUARDIAN readers. He tells us there have been many good policies and insights over the years thanks to you–the readers.

With that in mind, we will solicit questions from readers which Chief Masterson will answer in mid December. Because our readers check in on an irregular basis at all hours, we figured this would be the best method. We will present him with the questions and then publish a Q & A on or about December 15.

Keep it civil, but feel free to cover both marshmallow softball topics as well as hardball items. Here are a few that come to mind. Pay, use of force, ombudsman, choice of car color scheme, take home cars, civilian review, critical incidents, typing on computer in traffic, command structure (union boss attends command meetings), replacement.

Please refrain from specific incidents which may be pending because he won’t comment anyway.

Here is the first answer to EASTERNER regarding a recent seminar.

Re: Easterner and trip question:
“I attended the Annual International Chiefs conference. Boise PD was selected, for a second consecutive year as a finalist for their 2014 IACP/CISCO Community Policing Award for our Veterans Outreach Initiative. The award included airfare, hotel and conference registration. The city authorized per diem but I donated it back. Net expense to city and taxpayers was $0.

Here’s a list of a few of the training sessions I attended while at the conference. In order to get “credit” for the training each participant had to scan their badge to officially log in.”

–Recruiting a New Brand of Officer in a New Era of Policing
–Special Weapons and Tactics Teams: Perceptions versus Reality
–Innovative Practices for Improving and Enhancing Law Enforcement
–Response to People with Mental Health Disorders
–Planning and Preparation for Aftermath Management of a Mass Casualty Event
–Executive Leadership and Liability: Lessons Learned
PLUS 10 more sessions.
Also, Police Executive Research Forum Town Hall Meeting ( This was an interesting four hour discussion where the focus was on moral decision making by police leaders in the aftermath of officer involved deadly force encounters)

From seminars on community policing grants I brought back ideas to the dept on how to better utilize the officers which were awarded under a community policing grant.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. There is a show by the same name two seasons of which are now at NETFLIX. This not really a question but a note about a very good show that reflects on the morality of police work in the 1860’s by good guys. Also Dave I didn’t mention last time I wrote that all of my printed books are at the BSU library . You might ask your guest if he has seen the series Copper.

  2. Chief, what do you think of the Ferguson case? Specifically, given the fact Officer Wilson was not interviewed for an official police report, and his story has changed since the beginning– ending with an unreasonable story, and the prosecutor did not follow protocol for the grand jury.

    If you were writing a “lessons learned from Ferguson” what would it say for a rookie Boise police officer?

  3. Why did you request the City of Boise pay for your trip to Orlando for a Chief’s Conference 3 months before you retire?
    What did you gain from the conference that you think makes it worthwhile for Boise citizens?

  4. 1. Would he support a Community Police Commission? Either to advise on policy or complaints.

    2. What is his biggest recommendation for increasing cycling safety and the animosity between cyclist and drivers? How could the police department help?

  5. idahocrystal
    Dec 1, 2014, 4:32 pm

    What’s the status of getting all officers equipped with wearable body cameras? Other than a day of ‘training’, how are officers being better trained to deal with animals?

    Do you have personal views or opinions you feel comfortable sharing about
    –marijuana laws and enforcement challenges?
    –What about speed limits as revenue builders?
    –If we ever get another ombudsman, do feel they can actually provide value for the community? For law enforcement? –Some law enforcement agencies in other states have dropped things like property crimes divisions because of a lack of funding. Do you see these types of cutbacks as a viable response to dwindling funds?

  6. Since September 11th 2001, the dramatic change, no doubt encouraged by the patriot act and Homeland Security, in police nationwide has seen community policing shoved to the curb and the rise of the “brutal warrior cop.” The “US vs. THEM” mentality is very prevalent today than it was 13-years ago. Being pushed by homeland security, the rise in the use of military grade hardware has even reached Idaho – your department has its own MRAP.

    People I know have begun to fear the police and they certainly don’t trust any of them. The events in Ferguson, MO are just a small example of this.

    The vast majority of police officers hired today have some form of High School, Military, and may have even worked for a different department. Yet the majority of those in law enforcement fit a profile that is not diverse: usually white, usually male, and usually lacking a college degree. Some I know have said this is to help perpetrate the “jack-booted thug, bully with a badge mentality.”

    The sad truth is that we as a society don’t expect, nor do we encourage, our best and our brightest to become police officers. Young people who are perceived as smart and compassionate, and who exhibit leadership qualities are encouraged to go into politics, the non-profit world, possibly business, or perhaps law, but only to become lawyers, even doctors of medicine, etc. Rarely, if ever, are they encouraged to wear a badge. This reality crystallized for me when I was discussing an allegation of police brutality with a friend who is white, male, rich, and tilts conservative. He told me he feared the police, something I found hard to believe. His reasoning? “Every time I’ve ever been pulled over I remind myself I’m dealing with a high school flunky, ex-military fool with a gun and a badge.”

    Why in Boise is there such a poor emphasis on educated officers?

  7. What do you think about the US federal Govt giving military battlefield weapons to police departments? Do you think there is a danger that the Federal Govt is getting too powerful and intertwined with local law enforcement, and could potentially lead to a totalitarian national govt?

  8. I’d be interested in the chief’s views on the seemingly recent increase around the country in police shootings of unarmed citizens and what should be done to minimize them. I’d also be interested in his views of the gun culture behind the fear that misbehaving people are increasingly likely to be armed.

  9. Bieter+begone
    Dec 2, 2014, 11:31 am

    Why do the cops not enforce egregious bicyclist violations? Riding the wrong way, not signaling, etc.

  10. I am 65. No record. White. And for many reasons (some rational, some not so much) I find myself afraid of cops. Is there some way to keep officers reasonably (note *reasonably*) safe without intimidating people?

  11. Questions:

    1) What’s your estimate of the probability that your officers would shoot a lawful handgun permit holder if that person were in the act of lawfully using a handgun to protect/defend his/her life etc. at the moment your officers arrived?? What would be the departments excuse for shooting this lawful person? (happened to a man in his own home recently when he apprehended a bugler and called 911)

    2) Do your officers train for such a scenario??

    3) Did you see the kid get shot with the toy gun at wal-mart and do you think there should be charges filed against the 911-caller/dispatcher/shooters? How about the fake-gun 12yo shot at the park in OH?

    4) Is cop training broken?? Focused on a reported “gun” instead of “what’s the true risk” or “officer witnessed criminal activity”?

    5) Why does America have more people vs. total population in prison than any other country??

    6) Why does America have so many wrongfully convicted errors.

  12. Dale Gribble
    Dec 2, 2014, 8:37 pm

    Chief Masterson – what was your biggest accomplishment during your career?

  13. How long before officers of the courts (any court) will be able to use the massive volume of information/communications gathered by past and ongoing NSA surveillance in defense/prosecution of ordinary criminal trials??

  14. –What equipment has BPD requested and/or received from the Department of Defense and other military departments through the Excess Property Program (DoD 1033) or similar programs?

    –Do you have any concerns that the increased presence of military-grade equipment in the hands of local police forces contributes to a ‘warrior cop’ or ‘Us vs Them’ mentality among officers? Why or why not? If you agree that it can contribute what specific steps have you taken with the BPD to prevent or mitigate these effects?

    –Do you support the use of ‘body cameras’ by police forces in general? What about BPD in particular? Why or why not?

    –What is your opinion of the use of civil forfeiture laws by police departments to seize cash and real property from citizens? How often do BPD officers invoke civil forfeiture if at all? What percentage of BPD’s annual budget comes from seized items?

    –As an officer do you support the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

    –Do you feel Boise is a safer place to work and live than when you first took office? What, if anything has contributed to the change?

    –What would you consider your most significant accomplishments as Police Chief? What would you consider some of your greatest missed opportunities or mistakes?

    –What do you consider to be the most pressing issues for law enforcement in Boise? In Idaho? In the nation at large?

    –If you had fiat power in relation to law enforcement in Boise what if anything would you do or change?

    –Finally what advice would give to your successor?

  15. Chris Mitchell
    Dec 3, 2014, 12:04 am

    What does the Ada County Sheriff’s department do a better job of than the Boise Police?

  16. Why isn’t the loud vehicle laws not inforced? Motorcycles for example.

  17. 1) Reflecting on your tenure as chief what are you most proud of that you did in the department, and what is the most memorable regret?

    2) Do you feel under your tenure you increased the concept of community policing, or increased the gap between community and police?

    3) Do you support the increased use of military grade weapons with police and if so what is the purpose of such weapons in a community police department?

    4) Why the new black uniforms, combat boots and black muscle cars for police? There is an obvious fear and intimidation when seeing these civilian soldiers.

    5) What will you do in retirement?

  18. Why did the appropriate and traditional “protect and serve” on cars get replaced with “Protect * Serve * Lead?”

    We don’t elect police, and it’s not their job to lead society. Protect and serve is appropriate. Lead sets the wrong tone.

  19. Rod+in+SE+Boise
    Dec 4, 2014, 12:49 pm

    All good questions. I look forward to the chief’s response.

  20. Don, that’s Lead, as in lead bullets.

    It sounded better than “Protect. Serve. Butt-taser.

    Lead, as in leadership? ha!

  21. Chief, the airline industry and the healthcare industry were forced to change their methods of communication by powerful outside forces (and too many dead people). Several other industries have changed their methods of communication as well, due to competition and need for improved products. The changes in all of these industries resulted in a better safer more efficient products. With this VERY RELEVANT preceding statement in mind: 1) Why is LE in America dragging its feet on making changes to 911 dispatch methods which so frequently have deadly errors. 2) Why do officers act so swiftly and confidently based on information/dispatches which are KNOWN to have frequent deadly errors? 3) In short, where’s the accountability for the expensive and deadly errors… and should it be easier to sue city hall to force changes from the outside.

  22. Don inquired about the addition of “Lead,” to the motto on the cruisers. Which put me to thinking.

    I think it would be VERY appropriate for our police to LEAD BY EXAMPLE in such things as:
    – following speed limits
    – reducing our impact on the environment and saving fuel $ (thinking of cop cars that seem to be running 24/7, even if the cop isn’t in the car)
    – fiddling with electronic gizmos while rolling down the road (scares me to death, since I ride a bicycle and feel particularly vulnerable to inattentive drivers!)

    I’m surprised that nobody has yet asked…
    Ha! (I’d give the nod to Country Donuts, but the cops are the true experts.)

  23. Thanks for the reply Chief.

    So you are saying Boise Police took the time and resources to submit their application and then CISCO selected and PAID for Boise Police (paid for one) to go.

    ” net expense to taxpayers was zero”
    Sounds a lot like “the MRAP were free”.
    “Nothing is free” Chief.

    In 2013, you went with a BPD Captain.
    I suppose, others went with you this year. Did they donate their per diem as well?

    CISCO, is a vendor of BPD and Ada County Sheriff, right?
    And in 2013 you, a captain, and Sheriff Raney went to Orlando to “accept the award”… Sheriff Raney even got in on the photo op, even though it was a BPD award.

    Why does it sound even worse now, after you answered?

  24. I like Masterson and I even find this troubling. Thanks, Easterner.

  25. I know the answer to the first of these questions could be long but in a nutshell what is the definition of “officer safety”? 2. When can cops require a person (by law) to NOT video or audio record an encounter with cops?

  26. Inappropriate use of police / motor vehicle information systems:

    A high profile case in Minnesota highlighted the commonplace abuse of police computer files when a retired officer did a look-back and discovered hundreds of intrusions… some of which had romantic motives. 1) What is the law in Idaho on accessing an individual’s file? 2) Does BPD have rules and/or an audit system to catch/prevent such illegal intrusions? 3) How does an individual get a record of who/when/why their file has been accessed? 4) Are off duty BPD officers who work for private/corporate security allowed to access police/state file systems while performing non-BPD security duties? 5) Does BPD share information with any private/corporate/retail security firms? One last unrelated question: Any chance of using your license plate reading cameras to identify uninsured cars?

    EDITOR NOTE–Zippo, you have 6 questions here and a bunch more previously on this thread. Don’t expect answers as we have a limited space (and reader attention span) and the chief has limited time to go through all the Qs as well. Everyone: try to ask one or two good questions at a time.

  27. In response to David’s question above. He complains of the lack of educated Officers on the Boise Police Department yet plagiarizes his statement and question from a Daily Beast article written by Keli Goff.

    It seems ironic to me he complains of others lack of education.

  28. Blinding Lights

    First, thank you for your years of law enforcement service.

    Why do the police lights, particularly on the rear of the vehicles, have to be so bright at night when making traffic stops, blocking lanes (like at BSU games), etc? Highway traffic signs dim at night (usually) so why can’t police car lights dim at night? Do we really need all those really bright flashing lights at night? I can understand bright flashing lights in daylight, but at night?

    Maybe this is a light bar manufacturer problem. And I get the whole thing about officer safety. I worked for a law enforcement organization for two years as a civilian. I’d suggest the current level of brightness actually impairs officer safety because it makes it so difficult to see around and near the police vehicle at night.

    It appears Boise uses a type of traffic advisor light bar in the rear window but, unlike the State Police, it’s not used as a directional indicator – only as a wig wag with red and blue lights thrown in for good measure.

    How about reconfiguring those lights to all yellow and using them to indicate which direction traffic should go? And dim them down at night, along with the light bars. For folks with visual impairments, drivers and non – drivers, the intensity of the light is a killer.

    And can we at least have some type of department wide general guideline about what type of flashing configuration is used in what circumstances? Right now, based on observations Saturday night (12/6), it doesn’t seem like there is at least a general guideline.

    Thank you.

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