Final Round Of Top Cop Q&A

The final round of questions and answers from retiring Boise PD Chief Mike Masterson is presented here.
He will leave in January, becoming the second longest serving chief in the department history. GUARDIAN readers
have provided significant input for the department over the years and the chief has been an active commenter.

Question relating to department budget and dept budget as % of entire city budget.
When I started in 2005 the BPD budget was $33.533M and the City Budget was $130.42M (25.7%) In 2015 as I finish the BPD budget is $49.325M and the City Budget is $190.751M (25.85%)

What does the Ada County Sheriff’s department do a better job of than the Boise Police?
This may seem like a “cop out” but I don’t compare agency to agency. I will say this – The sheriff does an exceptional job of running the jail. It’s not just providing beds with cells, holding those arrested for court appearances or serving a sentence of up to a year for a conviction. He offers a myriad of programs design to educate and assist people. Alcohol and drug treatment programs, medical and mental health services to working with military vets in need of services are just a few of the innovative ways the ACSO provides high quality services. In my opinion, no one does it better.

Police car responding to an emergency in Boise, Idaho, USA.
Blinding Lights
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?

We have a different overall policing mission than the State Police does, specifically when it comes to the traffic directional lights to the rear.
Their needs are to help make people aware of lane directional need due to a traffic stop and other issues. In the rural environment, almost all of their work occurs on the right side of the roadway, which allows for an easier configuration of directional lighting. In our urban environment, the needs vary from call to call. Our light bars and other emergency equipment are configured to meet the needs of every officer, regardless of their assignment, and time of their shift. The decision on when and where to use overheads or the lesser of the lighting setting are made by the officers and their supervisors based upon the individual situation, setting and available resources. I understand the concerns, but this one size fits all is the best configuration for us. Granted it may be bright to some, but we’d rather risk on the side for safety than not be seen and create additional risks for the officer and motorist who is stopped. Couple of suggestions for better safety at night. Slow down and focus on the road ahead (no rubbernecking); don’t look directly at the lights as they are bright, and if you see far enough ahead and want to avoid them all together , turn off the road leading to the emergency light location and take a different route, it may even save you time.

Great resource that outlines all of the issues regarding EMERGENCY LIGHTS.

Question relating to running a name, driver’s license or registration check.
1) What is the law in Idaho on accessing an individual’s file?
This is dependent upon which system is accessed but the common theme is there must be a need to know to access a person’s “file.” National Criminal History files are governed by the CJIS Security Policy; Local internal systems are governed by the agency Policy manual which also follows “need to know.” General access of Public Records, outside of LE business, is governed by Idaho Title 9. (Abuses of the system have been handled through discipline).
2) Does BPD have rules and/or an audit system to catch/prevent such illegal intrusions?
The Idaho State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification staff audit BPDs use of the NCIC/ILETS system to ensure compliance with CJIS security policy and ILETS policy and procedure. Audit reports are shared with police leaders annually.
3) How does an individual get a record of who/when/why their file has been accessed? Good question. We are not custodians of those records so I don’t know.

More on body cameras: and further reasons why I advocate for taking it slow.

If I had the ear of a Genie for three wishes for Bike Safety
First: For increased cycling safety expand a “connected infrastructure” for cyclists- bike paths, road ways etc. . Most lacking are bike routes on the bench and down to the valley.

Second, in order to bridge the gap between motorists and cyclists we need to expand both driver’s education at the young adult level, as well as increasing the number of bike-related questions on the Idaho Driver’s test.

Third I believe that Boise Police already has access to young driver education but we are not exploiting that to our potential. By having Officers lecture as part of the driver’s training process, we not only address the importance of driver responsibility for crash avoidance, but demonstrate the expectations that cyclists have of motorists and that bikes are a legitimate vehicle within the Idaho Code. Share the road and respect each other.

Education level of Boise Police Officers
Good question. I’m still checking on this. Intuitively, my staff says over 90% of Boise officers have at least a 4 year college degree. Yet when I asked for the spreadsheet I learned we track that information when they are hired but haven’t updated it throughout an officers career. We are updating now and I will have a definitive answer in a couple of weeks. Idaho requires a minimum of 64 college credits to become a police officer. A chief can ask for a waiver in exceptional cases. I recall doing so for only one case. A military veteran who wished to join us and we believed was an exceptionally qualified person. I signed the request for the waiver and the officer had 5 years after being hired to obtain his minimum 64 college credits. Not only has he obtained the minimum POST credits he has gone on to obtain both his bachelors and masters degrees. I’ve hired 70 officer positions since January 1, 2005. All have a BA or higher except for 3 with AA degrees.

Officers working in off-duty jobs
Off-duty employment means any employment outside the Boise Police Department pursued by the employee with an entity other than the City of Boise, including self-employment. An employee is permitted to work other employment (off-duty employment) during those periods of time when he/she is not scheduled to work for the Department. The primary reason for establishing conditions is to insure that an employee’s capability to perform Department duties effectively and efficiently is not adversely affected by the employee’s off-duty employment. All work performed which is paid to employees through the City of Boise is considered job-related and on-duty. All work performed which is not paid through the City of Boise is considered off-duty employment. All off-duty employment will be performed in the employee’s capacity as a private citizen. While engaged in off-duty employment, an employee will NOT:
Identify himself/herself as a BPD employee while engaging in any off-duty work that might reasonably be perceived as the exercise any of the statutory law enforcement powers of a law enforcement officer; be considered as a BPD employee for purposes of any employee benefits, including workers’ compensation, liability insurance coverage, etc.; not wear the BPD uniform or carry, or utilize any Department owned equipment,.

Recently one citizen inquired as to why there were several uniformed police officers at a large retail store. This is called “Special Duty Employment.” The Police Chief occasionally authorizes requests from businesses for a uniformed police officer to be made available at an overtime rate that provides for full salary and benefit recovery. Officers working those events are there for people and traffic safety, preserve the peace and for law enforcement purposes. We do not enforce policies of a company. For instance if someone was butting into a long line of customers waiting to get into Black Friday sales specials the officer would accompany the store representative who would tell the person to leave. If the person did not voluntarily comply, and the store rep wanted to sign a complaint for trespass the officer could then cite. Officers working in uniform are ‘on the job” and would have access to all equipment and works systems they would have if it was a regularly scheduled day of work. (editor note: these deals are between the store and the department)

Will NSA will be sharing surveillance data with police from the new blimps they are raising over America? Last week’s funding bill made any data collection anywhere on anyone in America completely legal.
News to me. My experience has been that locals have rarely benefited by federal government sharing collected information with us so I really have no opinion on blimps and the new surveillance data suggested here.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Totally agree with the Chief’s assessment of the good work done by the Ada Co. with regard to the jail.

    Masterson has done an excellent job and I for one thank him for his service.

  2. The Chief has done a much better job than our current sheriff. Never seen the chief badmouth citizens or vendors, use “creative purchasing” to do business with friends when there are more economical options and most important never seen the chief use his bully pulpit and his PIO to try to destroy local businesses he does not like.

  3. John Q. Public
    Dec 19, 2014, 8:41 am

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


    Because the Sheriff is ELECTED by the people, and answers directly to the people.

    The Chief of Police is APPOINTED by a City Council of questionable intelligence and motive, and answers only to that City Council (often in exclusionary, “Executive Sessions”).

    P.S. I’ve not seen anyone ask these candidates if they will – as their predecessors have – continue to hide behind “Personnel Matters” and “The Police Union” and harbor unprofessional / criminal members of the BPD who repeatedly violate departmental policies ( ) and/or break the law (i.e. DUI).

  4. John – your response is exactly the response that we would expect from the Emperor of the County(aka Mr Raney) or someone on his staff.

  5. Rod+in+SE+Boise
    Dec 19, 2014, 12:10 pm

    I fail to see how being elected or appointed determines how well a person performs in a job.

  6. BPD budget
    interesting point offered by the Chief.

    from 33.5 million in 2005 to 49.3 million in 2015 is about a 4% annual increase over that time.

    let’s pick a random property in Boise for that similar time period… from a Google search an address pops up:

    This random Boise home assessed value was $118,600 in 2005 and in 2014 the assessed value is $150,800. That’s about a 3% annual increase over that time. (let’s ignore the HUGE increase this property incurred for 2013 to 2014).

    BPD 4% increase
    Home value 3% increase.
    Is that a 1% difference or a 33% more, difference?

    Obviously there was huge fluctuation in housing values (economy) from 2005 to 2011. Did the BPD budget experience the same?

    But for simplification, the BPD budget increased 4% in those 10 years.
    For the readers, what did your personal budget do during that time? and your property values?

  7. BPD vs ACS-
    I know one thing for sure- I would rather be stopped by or interact with Ada County than BPD.

    Considering one of the Chief candidates is Deputy Chief and “helped form the Downtown BPD Unit” — based on other people’s stories, people I know, and personally witnessing the BPD in downtown– that candidate would be the least favorable selection.

  8. Thanks Chief, It is a victory for all in the tinfoil hats that you answered that last one.

    There are so many other unanswered, yet very relevant, questions however. Perhaps once free of City Hall??

  9. My point was (and is) that the Emperor Sherriff is LESS accountable because he is elected – NO one questions him and if you do he uses all the tools of the office to slaughter you.

    For example – how much time does the Sherriff actually spend in the office? How much does he pay is public relations staff to make him look good? Who is he setting up to take his place in two years and why? Why does the Sherriff use purchasing practices for his office OUTSIDE normal channels? When was the last time there was any outside audit or review of the operations of the department? Would he even allow it? Who checks to see what he tells the county commission is correct? Who cares if it is not? What is his travel budget and how much has he traveled and spent in the last two years? See…no oversight.

    At least the Chief as a City Council to provide oversight – the Sherriff – ZIP.

  10. Thanks for great answer regarding cycling and great to see you out at the BBP’s Christmas Kid Bike Giveaway teaching about kids about bike safety!

  11. i dont know
    Jan 4, 2015, 9:49 am

    Now I dont know this; does the city decide how much money the police get arbitrarily or is it determined by population, force, crime, amount of money total etc… a much more complicated method. So if the second latter is the case does the 4% growth a year mean anything, considering the budget must of grown at a similar rate considering their portion remained the same. Also what do houses have to do with determining an appropriate police budget? Was it meant to be a representation of inflation? If so isn’t it more meaningful to take several houses in several neighborhoods and averaging their growth? For all that the reader knows this house was in great condition, needed now work and was in crime free neighborhood in 2005 and by 2015 the house needed lots of work or violent gangs moved into the area.

    Anyways as much as I’ve disliked police throughout my life I’ve learned to like them. I really don’t have exact knowledge to how well this man did, a lot of cops I’ve met are real jerks, and I’m sure hes made a poor choice here or there but it happens to us all. Also appointments are not such a horrible thing, in a police chieff election 99% of voters will be under/misinformed, or they will only be informed with half of the story. So for something like police chief how can it be a bad thing for people inside the system that are informed. As it was stated in another article police chief is not a political job it should not be decided be people blindly voting red or blue.

    One last thing, I have my fair share of harassment anecdotes and run-ins with entitled, cold, better than you cops but it is a hard job. They have to deal with violent people, everyone hates them, they are constantly lied to and they occasionally put their lives on the line. It’s no wonder they resent civilians.

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