According 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A woman from North Carolina had been offered the job, but after a background check, the job offer was rescinded.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.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.