City Government

Civilian Oversight Of Coppers Still Missing

ombudsmanAccording to a well researched story in the DAILY PAPER by Sven Berg, Team Dave can’t seem to find an ombudsman to scrutinize Boise Police complaints.

A woman from North Carolina had been offered the job, but after a background check, the job offer was rescinded. We have no problem with that, but it has been 19 months. The office of ombudsman–or any other oversight authority should be viewed as an “insurance policy.” You need to have it in place and hope to never use it. Just like the fire department–good to have it, but not good to need.

The GUARDIAN contends the very best plan is to create a board of no more than six citizens to act as a “police commission.” That board would act in similar fashion to the library, zoning, parking, airport, and library boards which are comprised of citizen volunteers. As it is today, we have no voice in the operation of our police and fire departments and they consume nearly half of the entire city budget.

Councilors have argued in the past they act as a police commission. If true, why have citizen boards for the smaller and more easily managed departments? Police and fire need to hear directly from citizens.

“Civilian oversight” is a common practice recognized across the USA. Our suggestion is to have the board consider and approve the police budget proposals which go to city council and generally act as a sounding board for policy decisions and citizen complaints which are not resolved by the police department internal affairs office. An investigator–even a police officer–could be assigned to do the investigations currently assigned to the part-time ombudsman stand in.

The ombudsman concept was created by former Mayor Brent Coles before he resigned in shame and went to jail. A group of citizens had recruited former Councilor Paula Forney to advocate on behalf of a police commission during the dark days of Boise’s police and political history. She attended a national meeting of civilian police oversight proponents in California and was about to suggest something for Boise. Coles’ ombudsman proposal was rushed in and preempted citizen control.

Just like the current situation, several candidates turned down the job and it was offered to a woman who said in a press conference she would “favor law enforcement” if all factors were equal in an investigation…she never got the job.

Pierce Murphy was actually the third choice. He wrote his own ordinance which we love to call “Murphy’s Law,” which isolated the job as much as possible from politics and outside influence. He now holds a similar post within the Seattle Police Department.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Dictator Dave can fill a Boise City Council position in the blink of an eye, but when it comes time to have someone watching our cops turned soldiers, it is just too difficult. Maybe he’s hoping to get all the raw milk vendors, small time organic veggie growers, and other domestic terrorist types run down with his MRAP before there’s someone to cry foul.

  2. Hey, let’s NOT offer a job until someone passes a background check.
    Seems like the city’s Ethics Committee could play a role too.

    EDITOR NOTE–The only way to prevail on ethics is if the employee personally profits from the act.

  3. What police complaints?? They seem to have been ‘disappeared’ somehow.

    The State or Fed needs to step in and break up the TeamDave mafia at Boise City.

    The law on appointments to the city council AND other buddy-buddy jobs needs to have limits/restrictions in place.

    Term limits on elected office are needed.

  4. I am not allowed to comment. …..

    Guardian of what? I have been barking up an oombudsman tree for 4 years now…grow up Boise. Team Dave is drunk at the wheel…..

  5. Rod+in+SE+Boise
    Feb 15, 2015, 12:07 pm

    Didn’t it take 4 months (my guess) to fill that last City council seat? Not exactly “the blink of an eye”.

    The story about this issue on the KTVB website was gibberish. It said the City said “negociations failed” (which I took to indicate that salary negociations had failed). It said that she said she was “discriminated against” and was considering legal action. Something is drastically wrong with that reporting, because the City seems to be saying “apples” and she is saying “oranges”.

    If the Statesman’s article is correct, and I haven’t read it yet, something is more wrong than the KTVB bungled reporting on this.

    Seems like I end up defending the City government about half the time and the other half I call for them to be banished to Mississippi. This time, it sounds like they may have fumbled.

    Has the city EVER held a press conference where they answer questions? They are more secretive than the CIA.

  6. Sounds to me like she wants more money then she is probably worth! Always comes down to pay!!

  7. So there is not a single person in the city of Boise qualified to do the job? We have to go out of state? You have got to be kidding!

  8. Dave Kangas
    Feb 16, 2015, 9:10 am

    I always enjoy the posts against “Team Dave”. While you may not agree with his politics you cannot argue against his mission to make Boise the most liveable city in the US. As far as term limits go, that is a state and national issue too. I do like “The Guardians” idea of a public commission. It removes the political pressures that are sure to come from a job like this. It also eliminates the salary that may be better used else where.

    EDITOR NOTE–Hey Kangas (too many Daves on this one), the GUARDIAN wants Boise to be the most livable city as well!

  9. There is no need for an ombudsman or any other civilian oversight. If the FEDs couldn’t produce an indictment what will an ombudsman do? I think we have read all we need to about demeanor and “policy violations” related to vehicle operation and cell phone use. The problems within the Boise police department are institutional, very specific to this area and are never going to change. Like the song says….”here’s the new boss, same as the old boss”. Nothing could be more true.

  10. Oh oh, Seems like the process needs to make very sure the office is filled with cop friendly:

  11. some things a foul here KTVB says the ombudsman will be investigating last nights shooting? Did one get hired over the weekend?

    EDITOR NOTE–The office is still there. A part-timer who does not want the job has been “acting ombudsman.” Our concerns lie with the way the system works it will be several months or more before the ombudsman office gets its turn to interview the shooter and other coppers. He has to wait in line until any chance of criminal charges has passed due to 5th amendment rights of coppers. (This so ombudsman report cannot be used against coppers). As a result, the current temp ombudsman likely will NOT be the one to do the final report. Another reason we need to fill the post.

    FYI, my sources indicate the cops are most likely clean in this incident…that’s just a preliminary report.

  12. It sounds as though you are correct. If the guy was shooting then their is no question, and that “if” is NOT a suggestion that he wasn’t. One thing that does concern me is the ombudsman cannot investigate until any chance of a criminal charge being leveled. It sounds like the cops contract that says they have to tell the truth to the ombudsman is a bit of a work around in the system. They should be able to take the 5th with him just like they can with a judge, but wait taking the 5th or not talking to the cops confirms guilt… doesn’t it. That last part is sarcasm…kinda

    EDITOR NOTE–The policy is a double edge sword. As a condition of employment they give up their 5th rights in order to get at the truth. The thinking is there is “no risk” in telling the truth if it cannot be used against you. Otherwise, coppers could just ignore the ombudsman and we would be back to the bad old days.

  13. This just seems to be a catch 22 situation. We need the ombudsman to investigate because we can’t trust the cops to hold their own accountable…is that correct? But the ombudsman cant investigate possible illegal actions of the cops til there is no jeopardy attached.. Somehow it seems this is worse than the bad old days. If I am understanding this right the top cops can find it to be a personnel/training problem and then the ombudsman gets the truth but the errant cop is free and clear. Sounds like a waste of a couple hundred grand or more to run the office.
    There seems to be an easy fix… since the cops are supposed to “lead” lets put some folks in charge that will hold them to at least the same standard they expect from the public or give the ombudsman some teeth to discipline or suggest charges be filed.
    In light of the atrocities LE has perpetrated around the country this is a conversation that is going to have to happen. Thankfully none have happened in Boise… for a few years anyway, but it is only a matter of time.

  14. It’s called a subpoena. But you need an honest truth seeking individual in the Ombudsman position in the first place……preferably one that sticks around long enough to explain a few things before heading to the coast. Whoops…….too late.

  15. John Q. Public
    Feb 27, 2015, 6:04 pm

    If officers were to carry their own professional liability insurance, insurance rates would increase for each misconduct case brought against an officer. That handful of officers who continue to abuse their power in uniform would be forced out, as their insurance rates would become too costly for them to remain in the department or they became uninsurable. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, general contractors and many others are required to pay for professional liability insurance– why not police officers?

  16. Gee ok John, so your saying everyone an officer arrests could sue him. Yeah that makes sense! What do you do for a living? Guess if police should have it, so should fire dept, parking enforcement, dog catchers, the kid that mows your lawn. Get real!

  17. John Q. Public
    Mar 1, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Uhm… Civics 101: Everyone an Officer interacts with (no less arrests) has the Right (vis-a-vis “Privilege”) to sue that Officer in their State District Court and/or Federal Court.

    The City of Boise (and by extension: You) have already paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars for lawsuits brought against Officers, the Department and the City as a result of unprofessional and criminal conduct of Boise Police Officers.

    The City ALREADY carries liability insurance (along with the Fire Department, Parking Enforcement Agencies, and yes; even the Dog Catchers). All my proposal would do is make the Officers responsible for premium increases based on suits brought in a Court of Competent Jurisdiction, and judged by a Jury of their Peers.

    Not much different than a company driver who gets speeding tickets. S.O.P. is tat said driver would pay the difference between the base rate and the increase caused by their behavior.

    Eventually, a drivers record gets so bad that they either can’t afford the premiums, or the insurer says they’ll no longer cover them.

    Its the Private Sector/Capitalism at its finest.

    What do YOU do for a living, that you don’t have even a rudimentary knowledge of Civics or Liability Insurance?

  18. In todays world anyone can sue anyone, just depends if you have the money to start a suit, or a lawyer to take the case. Yes, I understand basic civics, I understand that municipities, counties and states have liability insurance to cover their employees that do something wrong. Normally, those persons are removed from emloyment by either resigning or termination if their misconduct rose to the level of a serious policy violation or a criminal offense, you as John Q Public just don’t hear about them, because there are laws in place for that also, but thanks for trying to teach us something!

  19. lol.. kinda contradicting yourself sal…

  20. No contradicting, what I am saying is, cities and other places cover their employees, why should the person that are in high visibility jobs that have everyday contact with people, and are possibly going to be sued by just about anyone for anything, be required to pay for there own insurance. Rick, not even going to start with you, we will just get shut down, and its like talking to a wall at times.

  21. The issue is NOT (generally speaking) contacts with citizens of a city. The issue USUALLY involves behavior that falls in to the OTHER category that needs to be addressed. The behind the walls sort of activities that the public only hears rumor of.The citizens rarely know for sure what is going on and without an ombudsman that knows his job, knows what is important and what is not and is honorable, we NEVER know. Drug abuse, domestic violence, sexual impropriety, pedophilia, statutory rape, alcohol abuse, DUI’s, theft, perjury, nepotism, abuse of authority, mental issues that might be an issue with an individual with a loaded gun and arrest powers are issues most departments have to deal with in some fashion, but how do we know when these become an issue for the average citizen. Having said that, unless the job of ombudsman is more specifically defined and given some teeth, the average citizen lives in a world of hit or miss with some officers of the law. At this point, the position is meaningless.

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