By DAVID R. FRAZIER, editor
Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee was relieved of his duties Friday by Mayor Lauren McLean amid unrest from the police union, investigative news reports from several legacy media agencies, a potential lawsuit from an injured officer, which included a criminal investigation into his personal actions.
According to reports, Lee will be on “paid leave” until October 14, but former Assistant Chief Ron Winegar has already been named acting chief.
Lee hired several “command staff” from Portland–his former place of employment. He also brought in commanders from the Bay Area of California. Put bluntly, the department is in disarray and veteran captains and officers have retired early, quit to work for lower wages at other agencies, and even spent huge sums to qualify for the state PERSI retirement program.
Rather than list the litany of complaints and incidents alleged against Lee, the GUARDIAN will once again renew our plea for a citizen advisory police commission and offer insight and opinions garnered over more than 50 years of intense contact and scrutiny with Boise PD. We have met frequently over the years with officers and the chiefs to share views on behalf of the citizens of Boise.
Here are some points that should be followed in any future hiring decisions.
–The citizens of Boise need to be represented with a police commission comprised along the same organizational lines as the airport, park, P&Z, Library, Public Works, commissions. BPD is the single biggest consumer of tax dollars and citizens have no formal voice in the operation or budget decisions. We deserve better. Even the U.S. Department of Defense is managed by civilians with a staff of military experts.
–The mayor and council have forgotten the citizens when it comes to policing. They talk with the union (including Friday prior to firing the chief), but they seem to forget the citizens. The union deserves to be in the equation, but it appears they are driving the decision process.
–Today’s police executive needs to be capable of managing a budget in excess of nearly $80 million. Duties include fleet management, personnel and legal issues, training, site selection, politics, community relations, etc. In short: there are not many coppers who are qualified to run an $80 million corporation.
–A new police chief needs to reflect the values of the community, so we are not enthusiastic about a “nationwide search” for a new chief. Likewise, there are many pitfalls in promoting from within because friendships and biases can interfere.
–An executive with Boise or Idaho ties would be ideal. In short: a police chief can be a civilian manager with a staff of expert coppers in the command staff. Former U.S. Senator Frank Church who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee once told me, “About anyone can decide most foreign policy, BUT it takes an expert to implement it.” We have similar views on a new police chief. We need someone who understands the needs of the officers AND the public, not necessarily a gun toting copper who is at the end of his career.
Frazier is a 54 year resident of Boise. He was the police beat reporter for the Statesman, a police officer, and state of Idaho Law Enforcement Planning Commissioner.
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